A Life Worth Living
It is my belief that we each might live up to 120 years on this earth. Too many in this state will not live this long due to car accidents, homicide, workplace incidents, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and now COVID-19. But never has an American government taken away so much of what we live for to stop death from coming earlier than planned.
The purpose of the Stay at Home Order was to flatten the curve, so our hospitals were not overrun and the sick of any illness or injury wouldn’t die in the parking lot waiting for a bed that would never be available in time. This goal was accomplished weeks ago and yet the lockdown remains.
What is truly being alive when the very essence of living is not allowed?
If you are lying on your death bed, thinking over all your years of life and you never visited your friend’s house, never went on a 1st date, never got married or had kids, never worked the job you loved, never went camping, never smelled Lake Michigan without a mask, never again hugged your parents, and never really left your house for any meaningful length of time, what fond memories would comfort you as your consciousness floats you away? All the above activities are forbidden by the Executive here in Michigan. For many, it makes life not worth living at all.
The truth is that suicide is up, alcohol dependency is through the roof, spousal and child abuse is on the rise, depression is setting in, hundreds of thousands of Michiganders haven’t got paid in nearly 40 days because they can’t get through to the unemployment agency, and the state treasury is out of money.
We cannot continue to provide adequate funding for vital government services nor continue to help the poor, children, the infirmed, elderly, and those with disabilities when there is no money coming in through taxes. The State Constitution clearly says we cannot spend more than we take in per year.
What are our options to fight COVID-19?
1. Lockdown until a vaccine is developed.This is what the Governor has suggested multiple times. But, there are countless numbers of viruses on Earth. Some of them kill thousands a year. Of those that kill Americans, we have known most for 100 years. Of these we have spent billions of dollars and countless lifetimes trying to develop vaccines and, for the majority, there still is no vaccine. What makes us confident the virus we discovered 5 months ago will yield a vaccine faster than any other virus we have ever studied? I do not think it is statistically likely we will have a viable and safe vaccine for all 10 million plus residents of our state by the end of the year.
Even if we do develop a vaccine in less than a year, there is a significant chance the virus will mutate like the seasonal flu. This would make our record-breaking vaccine just as useless as last year’s flu shot. That means cyclical shutdowns of major sectors of our society on an annual basis, not once every 100 years. Making living life contingent on a vaccine is a terrible option.
2. Get the government completely out of the way and pass no COVID-19 related laws.
Nobody is suggesting this. Unemployment benefits would end after 20 weeks. Those who are immunocompromised would be forced to go back to work or risk being fired. This would result in most losing health insurance at the worst possible time. Large concert venues would fill with tens of thousands of people, and it could lead to big spikes and swings of infections across the state.
3. Legislature and Governor agree to temporary restrictions
This is the option that I suggest. The legislature passes and the governor signs laws with specific end dates such as extending unemployment benefits beyond the normal 20 weeks, limiting the size of gatherings, and mandating social distancing. We also need protections for citizens who are most at risk of serious complications due to contracting this infectious disease. Those with underlying health conditions and their immediate family members could continue to collect unemployment benefits. Businesses can only open if they can do so safely by following CDC and MIOSHA guidelines.
Nursing homes, first responders, prison guards, healthcare workers, and others in similar lines of work get antibody tested immediately. Those who have already gotten the disease and built up an immunity can go back to work without significant possibility of spreading the disease. Those who have not yet contracted COVID-19 but work in these fields should get tested for the disease daily.
The benefits of option three is that it focuses our attention on those who need the most protections during this pandemic, while allowing most other Michiganders a closer semblance to our lives back in February. This would get most of Michigan back to work, unclog the unemployment lines, and bring in much needed tax revenue. The state needs this money to pay for hospital relief, medical supplies, expanded unemployment benefits, health departments, first responders, schools, roads, and other vital government services.
When I am on my death bed, hopefully 90 years from now but even if it is just a few short weeks away, I know I will reflect on this tough time. I know I will be proud of all Michiganders. We flattened the curve and we saved lives, together. I will remember when we had the choice to continue to lockdown indefinitely or open the economy in a thoughtful way and return people their God-given freedoms. And I will peacefully leave this earth and take solace in knowing we chose option 3, and it was a life worth living.
-Representative Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain)