In a clear rebuke of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan’s cautious plan for reopening Maryland businesses, U.S. Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R) announced on Tuesday that he will be visiting Eastern Shore retailers that are “ready to open.”
The series of visits, set for Wednesday afternoon, underscores the growing divide between Republicans like Hogan, who are heeding the advice of scientists and public health experts, and those like Harris, who are pushing to resume normal commerce sooner.
According to a news release put out by the congressman’s office, Harris “will tour local employers on the Eastern Shore who are eager and ready to re-open, and are capable of conducting their business with masks and social distancing.”
The congressman will visit Kent Narrows Boatel, an indoor marina; Wye River Marine; and Queenstown Harbor Golf Course.
Undoubtedly, Harris has been to all three establishments before. His visit can only be seen as a way of highlighting the growing frustration, particularly among Republicans, to the governor’s insistence that the state show a solid 14-day drop in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and ICU usage before it would be safe to resume normal commerce and social interactions.
Republican members of the General Assembly began pushing Hogan 10 days ago to allow for a regional approach to reopening shuttered businesses.
Protesters clogged Annapolis streets on April 18 demanding that restrictions on commerce end on May 1.
The state’s influential business lobby, while careful not to criticize a pro-business governor who has earned widespread praise for his handling of the crisis, nonetheless recently urged Hogan to allow for greater use to curbside pickup, as a way of throwing cash-starved retailers a lifeline.
Last Friday, when Hogan unveiled the state’s “Roadmap to Recovery” he stressed anew that Maryland’s three-phase return to normal business activity can’t begin until key metrics show 14 consecutive days of improvement, the standard recommended by health experts and the White House coronavirus task force.
Hogan’s office re-posted his plan on Facebook on Tuesday morning. The move triggered an avalanche of comments — more than two thousand by 8 p.m. — that were split between those who supported Hogan’s approach and those who warned it would lead of a cascade of business failures. Many of those who wrote in opposition used colorful language and appeared to harbor serious anger toward the governor.
Perhaps ironically, Harris, a physician, appears to be pushing for a restart to business activity before the health experts have said is advisable. His office did not immediately respond to an email on Tuesday evening, nor did Hogan’s communications director.
James P. Moran, the head of the Queen Anne’s Commission, said he will accompany Harris on his tour of county businesses on Wednesday.
By Bruce DePuyt