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Opinion

Private enterprise and free markets will win the fight against COVID-19


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Sep. 21, 2020 - 8:58 PM

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Private enterprise and free markets will win the fight against COVID-19

Marc Hyden is the Director of State Government Affairs at the R Street Institute, and he is a long-time Georgia resident. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.

Georgia’s Republican leadership has been under fire for its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Critics have complained that Gov. Brian Kemp should have taken more forceful, sweeping actions, which many of us would consider draconian. What’s more, his detractors waste little time and point to European nations and even China as examples of how to contain and defeat the virus.

While people can hold whatever opinions that they want, not all European countries have been entirely successful. Spain and France, for instance, are in the midst of serious second waves. Further, while COVID-19 has supposedly dwindled to miniscule levels in China, The Washington Post reported that the Chinese government welded shut the doors of some of those who had contracted the virus. Certainly, no liberty-loving Georgian would suggest adopting this as a macro policy.

Regardless of what measures states institute, there will continue to be some ebb and flow as infections and deaths unfortunately fluctuate. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we will beat the virus in the near term, and in many ways, we will have private enterprise and freer markets to thank for the victory.

Despite what you might read on social media, there is reason for optimism in Georgia. Despite witnessing a spike during the summer, per The New York Times, Georgia’s 14-day rolling average in new COVID-19 cases and deaths has largely been flagging for some time now, and Georgia’s single day COVID-19 test positivity rate from September 20 was down to around 9 percent.

Having ample access to these tests is important because they can help limit the spread of the pandemic, and partially due to the Kemp administration's partnerships with private companies, these tests are quick and easy. In fact, out of an abundance of caution, I got one. I gave the drive-through site little notice, but they gave me a quick nasal swab anyway. It tickled a little and made my eyes water, but 25 minutes later, I had my results—negative. Without private enterprise, broad access to such rapid tests might be a rarity.

Of course, tests will not eradicate the pandemic. Rather, they are part of a containment strategy. The holy grail to vanquishing the virus, we are told, is a vaccine, and with some government support, numerous private, competing companies are racing toward developing a safe and effective vaccine. Once again, because of private enterprise, we may soon have available vaccines. In fact, NIAID Director, Dr. Fauci, announced that the public could potentially start receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in November or December.

Between the mass production and administration of rapid COVID-19 tests and the development of a potential vaccine, there’s plenty of reason for justified hope. However, there are other proactive roles that companies can play to limit the spread of the pandemic in the meantime, and they can look abroad for guidance.

I recently returned from a trip to Quintana Roo, Mexico, which has a host of safety protocols in place. Virtually every time you get into a vehicle, walk into a building or depart for some excursion, your temperature is taken, you’re given hand sanitizer and you’re asked to wear a mask. If you have a fever or do not have a mask, then the driver, hotelier or restaurateur will not allow you to enter. Period.

I had no qualms with complying with this policy, and actually, it put me to greater ease. After all, I don’t want to contract COVID-19—especially in another country. Even so, I am not advocating for a blanket mask mandate or temperature checks here in Georgia, but I do support private companies’ right to institute such policies on their own property.

While most already require masks, I would be even more likely to patronize Georgia businesses that require temperature checks, given that I would feel safer there. I am sure many would feel the same, while some others might disagree, but that’s the beauty of a free market. You can essentially vote with your feet and don’t have to give any specific company your business if you don’t like their policies. Nevertheless, it seems that if more private companies voluntarily adopted similar protocols when practicable, then it would serve as another effective tool to combat the pandemic.

Between striving to better contain COVID-19 with tests and safety protocols or ending it with a vaccine, private enterprise is at the forefront of the fight and will be key to victory. As we have seen, presidential and gubernatorial administrations can work closely with companies to hasten the pandemic’s demise. Thankfully, we are seeing a similar approach in Georgia.

Marc Hyden is the Director of State Government Affairs at the R Street Institute, and he is a long-time Georgia resident. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.