A state Senator from northeast Missouri is questioning the effectiveness and constitutionality of orders for people to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a Facebook post Sunday, state Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, said she supported the social distancing and hand-washing advice being given to combat spread of COVID-19 but not the orders issued in St. Louis, Kansas City and several states for people to stay at home.
"I am thankful our Governor has not jumped on the ’shut everyone down’ mode," O’Laughlin wrote. "However, I see no time in the history of this country when perfectly healthy people have been basically confined to their homes or only able to do essential things as in Kansas City or St. Louis. Frankly I consider this unconstitutional and it needs [to be] challenged."
Gov. Mike Parson has set a limit of 10 on private and public gatherings, directed that schools stay closed until at least April 6 and ordered that bars and restaurants only offer curbside, drive-thru and delivery service.
He is being urged to do more, most recently on Monday by the Missouri State Medical Association, which called for a statewide stay-at-home order.
O’Laughlin, who represents 14 counties in northeast Missouri including Adair, Chariton, Linn and Randolph counties, wrote people should try to go about their regular lives as much as possible.
"Every day we all weigh risks and rewards," O’Laughlin wrote. "This is no different. As a friend said, ’We could lower the speed limit to 5 mph and nobody would die but the cost is too great.’ We cannot crush all livelihoods for all people we just can't. ... Let’s get on with the business of life."
In an interview, O’Laughlin said small and medium-sized businesses, and their employees, will suffer the most from people isolating themselves during the pandemic.
"I know people want to believe that the government is somehow going to step in and alleviate all the suffering if they just stay home, but I do not believe that," she said. "It’s easy, when you’re in government, to issue an edict, but you need to think about the far-reaching consequences of those."
Though someone may appear healthy, symptoms of the virus can take from two to 14 days to appear after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control, meaning that a person can spread the virus to others without knowing they have it.
Because so little is known about the virus right now, it is important for people to follow CDC guidelines and the governor’s orders, Adair County Health Department Administrator Jim LeBaron said.
"There are people in the community that feel that this is overblown. I don’t," he said. "I’ll just say, as the health department administrator, it’s not overblown. It’s a very serious virus and we all need to do our part."
The guidelines laid out by the CDC and local health departments, like social distancing and hand washing, are prudent and should be followed, but people should still go to work if possible, O’Laughlin said.
"We’re in a perilous position, especially in rural areas, as far as our economies are concerned," she said. "A lot of people don’t understand that a small business can go under in a month."
Big businesses likely will end up getting bailed out because of their lobbying ability, a luxury that smaller businesses don’t have, she said. To help out smaller businesses during the pandemic, O’Laughlin suggested property tax abatement and potential grant funding.
Officials at the Randolph County Health Department said they would not respond to O’Laughlins statement.