So far, it looks like efforts by Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito to orchestrate a measured march toward reopening the state’s economy are leaning away from Sousa and towards Stravinsky.
The administration’s sudden about-face on golf courses last week, while valid in light of current science about COVID-19 transmission, raises questions about how the state will ultimately reopen.
Polito’s reopening advisory panel was initially supposed to deliver its proposed plan to reopen the state economy May 18.
“As everybody knows, safety’s first, employers are engaged, and it’s of paramount importance that we make sure that that the workforce is safer, that people who do business with these employers are safe in their transactions, and that we continue to move forward and not have a reverse effect as we reopen in that safe manner throughout our commonwealth,” Polito said when the task force was announced on May 4.
Along with other businesses deemed non-essential, golf courses and their users were supposed to wait their turn until, relying on testimony from a litany of health, business and labor leaders plus its 17 members’ own personal expertise, the advisory group produced a roadmap with clear guidelines and stages.
We’ve seen how COVID-19 hurts the state’s most vulnerable the most, from nursing homes to poor and working-class neighborhoods.
But after a mere week of public – and, likely, private – whining from golfers and pushy demands from Greater Boston business leaders that it produce a plan in less than half the time allotted, the administration folded once a few golf course owners declared they would defy the ban.
That’s a far cry from “carefully considered.”
As Polito said, May 18 is no “magical date” where the coronavirus will simply vanish. Until a vaccine and better therapeutics become widely available, COVID-19 will be an ever-present threat.
Massachusetts appears to have “flattened the curve”; the state can and should now be turning its attention to how it can coexist with this deadly disease. But the rules for that coexistence cannot be made by the loudest complainers lest we wind up with the kind of discordant policy responses that will bring the virus roaring back.
We’ve seen how COVID-19 hurts the state’s most vulnerable more than anyone else, from nursing homes to poor and working-class minority neighborhoods. And they will feel the worst of a second wave of infection if Baker and Polito can’t stand up to well-connected bellyachers.
Of course, the art of politics is sometimes to be found in the ability to dance on the chaotic waves of public opinion instead of shaping them. Time will tell whether Baker and Polito perform their own “Rite of Spring,” or something a bit more orderly.
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