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Congressman Byrne: States that locked down shouldn’t get federal aid

Republicans in the Congress have been strongly resisting calls to reimburse city and state governments for their lost revenues due to the economic shutdowns.

In mid-March, government officials around the country began a series of economic lockdowns to slow the spread of the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Seven months later, after most of those lockdowns have been lifted, the virus is still spreading and Americans are still dying — though with lower mortality rates that what we experienced in the spring.

Congressmen Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, and Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, expressed their dissatisfaction with what is continuing of those economic shutdowns.

“I’m aware that some parts of the U.S. are led by people who simply won’t open up,” Byrne said. “I believe in federalism and that is their prerogative. But, the rest of us shouldn’t bail them out as the Democrats have demanded in Washington. If they want to stay closed and are suffering as a result, they shouldn’t expect the rest of the country to enable their poor choices.”

Republicans in Congress have been strongly resisting calls to reimburse city and state governments for their lost revenues due to the economic shutdowns.

“The World Health Organization finally took notice of what many Americans, including me, have been saying for months, the COVID-19 cure cannot be worse than the disease,” Brooks said. “Economic shutdowns are a terrible way to combat COVID-19. Killing our economy only worsens the problem and exacerbates poverty. I asked Governor Ivey to lift onerous lockdown restrictions way back in April. Top down, nanny-state, government imposed closures were never the best solution to reduce the damage done by COVID-19. I choose to promote individual freedom and liberty. I am confident in the American peoples’ ability to decide for themselves what they believe is best to protect and promote their own lives. Nanny-state lockdowns aren’t the answer.”

WHO envoy Dr. David Nabarro said such restrictive measures should only be treated as a last resort, the British magazine the Spectator reported in a video interview.

“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Nabarro said.

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Critics of the lockdowns argue that they have led to rising unemployment, increased suicide rates, premature deaths due to failure to get health checkups, increased depression, rising domestic violence and that they disproportionately hurt the poor who are much more likely to lose their jobs.

“In general, the states with the earliest and hardest lockdowns have had the worst economic outcomes,” Byrne said. “Think New York and nearby New Jersey, two of the most locked-down states in the nation. New York’s August unemployment rate, for example, was 12.5%, and New Jersey’s was 11%, whereas the national rate was 8.4%. Here in Alabama, where the lockdown was moderate and we have largely reopened, the August unemployment rate was 5.6%. New York state government is facing huge deficits while Alabama just finished its fiscal year in the black.”

Byrne argued in a recent column that the lockdowns simply don’t work.

“Last week, led by three leading public health experts, over 13,000 epidemiologists, public health scientists and health care practitioners from all over the world signed a petition calling for the lockdowns to end and for the world to return to a new normal, citing the physical and mental health issues caused by the lockdown policies,” Byrne wrote. “The World Health Organization echoed this call a few days later.”

“And schools? I’ve advocated for a return to in-person learning going back to this past July based upon data, reports and testimony those of us on the House Education and Labor Committee had received. In-person learning returned for many students around the country, and here in Alabama, in August,” Byrne said. “Many of the “experts” warned of spikes in the disease among those returning to school and made dire threats of these spikes spreading to older adults. Well, it’s two months later and experts such as Emily Oster of Brown University agree there has been no spike in the disease among these students.”

Alabama remains under a statewide “safer-at-home” order. Citizens are advised to remain in their houses as much as possible and avoid crowds or situations where they might be within six feet of other people. Masks or cloth face coverings are required if you do go out.

At least 221,872 Americans in all 50 states have died from COVID-19, the condition caused by the novel strain of the coronavirus, including 2,655 Alabamians. A number of companies are working on a coronavirus vaccine to try to control the global pandemic.

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Brooks represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District. Brooks will be returning for another term in Congress, while Byrne is not running again.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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