Emails Show Corporations — Not Medical Experts — Decided When Some States Would Reopen
The Associated Press has obtained emails under open-records laws that show several governors allowed corporations to decide when to reopen the states and what the safety rules would be, despite numerous warnings from medical health professionals.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster was told by his state health department in an email not to reopen indoor dining for restaurants until May 18 so that they studied infection rates after the mandatory COVID-19 home order was lifted.
However, McMaster ignored science, and followed the state restaurant association’s recommendations to resume inside dining on May 11 and allowed safety masks to be optional for employees, who could easily transmit the deadly coronavirus.
As expected, South Carolina experienced a surge of COVID-19 infections that forced the science-denying McMaster to roll back his reopening plan.
Anita Cicero, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said the main concern was corporate profits:
The interest in trying to reopen and restart economic activity had a much greater pull at the time … than did public health concerns or question marks about how it would go.
The head of the state hospital association in Oregon wrote Gov. Kate Brown in May urging her to require masks as “foundational to any business opening where people will be gathered, indoors or out.”
However, Brown gave into corporations and required masks only for employees of certain businesses, As expected, Brown had to reverse course as COVID-19 cases rose over the summer.
Lance Odermat, vice president of Brown Bear Car Wash in Seattle, said that Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee followed Odermat’s plan for reopening:
It seemed like a lot of those guidelines were taken directly from our operating plan.
Margaret Byrnes, executive director of the New Hampshire Municipal Association, told Gov. Chris Sununu’s administration in an email to keep campgrounds closed.
However, Sununu’s policy director, D.J. Bettencourt said opening campgrounds on May 1 was “an essential aspect of ensuring housing” f to guard against homelessness (although living in a campground is homelessness).