Sussex councilman looks to common sense over science to reopen state

John Rieley

GEORGETOWN — A Sussex County councilman says COVID-19 benchmarks have been met, costly sacrifice made and now common sense — not science — should dictate reopening of the state of Delaware.

“I believe that at certain times it is incumbent upon us as elected representatives to offer leadership by expressing our point of view on the issues of the day,” said county councilman John Rieley, R-Millsboro. “While the vast majority of our fellow citizens have endeavored to comply with mandates coming from the Governor in an effort to flatten the curve to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it has come at a cost.”

“Obviously, those who have become ill and even died are on all of our hearts and minds and we share the grief of their families,” Mr. Rieley said. “But cost can be measured in many ways. Of course, financial cost is one but delayed medical care is a cost as well. Lost school time is a cost. Depression from isolation and financial hardship is a real cost also. Indeed, there are a number of ways we could measure costs. Nevertheless, our fellow citizens have stepped up and cooperated and many have paid a price.”

Mr. Rieley, who offered his commentary near the conclusion of the May 12 County Council teleconference meeting, referred to Gov. John Carney’s state of emergency modifications, shutdown of certain businesses and the governor’s reliance on science.

“I have often heard the Governor say that he will be ‘led by science and the experts,’” said Mr. Rieley. “That phrase never sat well with me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I discussed it with my son who is completing his Ph.D. in Political Philosophy. These are his words: He says, ‘The nature of politics and especially statesmanship is such that it cannot outsource its decision making to scientists either of the natural or economic type. Statesmanship — which is what has failed here in many ways — requires making decisions that take into account but are not reducible to those considerations, because the statesman is one who has responsibility to care for the whole community, not just one part or aspect.’”

Mr. Rieley said his son continued, saying: “There are often legitimate ends that are in tension with one another in the actual functioning of political communities. In this case, the legitimate end of economic productivity and ensuring that people are able to participate in the inherent dignity that work supplies versus ensuring physical health to the greatest extent possible. But these ends and many others are of course always in tension and the task of the statesman is always to balance these tensions with an eye toward the common good, which is distinct from the aggregation of individual goods,”

Mr. Rieley said his son’s words “clarified for me what was unsettling to me about the Governor’s statement. It is vital that the Governor as the chief executive caretaker of the state be mindful of the entire state in all of its aspects’ — both the citizens most at risk of the virus and all the other members of the state as well. It is paramount that the Governor not outsource decision making to those trained only to look at issues associated with their own discipline.”

Continuing, Mr. Rieley said he was concerned about the precedents that could be set with the governor’s actions and called the closure of courts and inaction by the General Assembly a troubling scenario.

The people of Delaware “are intelligent and willing to do what is right to assist in limiting the spread of this virus. Those most at risk know what they must do to limit their exposure and should act accordingly. Our citizens gave two weeks willingly in order to ‘flatten the curve. They gave another month because they were asked. But as the shutdown grinds on — approaching two months now — it becomes less clear what the purpose is,” he said.

“There must be accountability to ensure that this crisis does not become worse than the disease, by allowing drastic collateral damage to more people than are actually touched by the virus or by undermining the rule of law. Caution is always advisable when implementing policy but acting ‘out of an abundance of caution’ is not a sustainable governing principal — especially when there are very real tradeoffs at stake,” said Mr. Rieley.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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