Politicians and bureaucrats spend a lot of their time making new laws and regulations to "protect the public," but now that the public is really in danger, the government is realizing that setting many of them aside is essential for our safety.
Here are 10 measures enacted in the name of public safety that have been set aside in the name of public safety.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) testing monopoly is perhaps the biggest and most obvious clusterfuck on the list: The agency mandated that only it could create and distribute tests. When they finally did roll them out, they turned out to be painfully slow and wildly inaccurate. Only after this colossal failure did they allow private companies into the game, which has led to more testing kits that deliver faster results. If only that had happened months ago.
- On March 18, the White House announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would finally allow health care providers to work across state lines. This is fantastic news—except HHS doesn't have that kind of authority. States have jurisdiction over who can practice within their boundaries. Not surprisingly, HHS has been pretty quiet about the issue, but at least some states have waived restrictions, making it easier for doctors to be doctors.
- You know things are serious when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is easing stupid restrictions. Since 2006 the agency said that having more than 3.4 ounces of liquid in a container was super dangerous on airplanes, but now that actual danger is around and no one is flying, hand sanitizer in 12-ounce bottles is A-OK.
- Speaking of hand sanitizer, here's some good news from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: Distilleries around the country can now make hand sanitizer without jumping through a metric fuckton of red tape, including permits, bonds, authorization, formula approval, and taxes. These waivers are only approved through June 30, however—after which that same hand sanitizer might once again be very dangerous.
- Anyone who makes or sells alcohol is well-versed in ridiculous and counterproductive regulation, but with the crushing blow that social distancing brings to restaurants, at least one strip of red tape is being snipped: State and local governments are lifting bans on alcohol home delivery, which is welcome news to bars, restaurants, and anyone stuck at home paying attention to the news.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been easing a bunch of restrictions, including relaxing rules on ventilator manufacturing, allowing pharmacists to make hand sanitizer, declaring previously unapproved respirators totally safe now, allowing outside groups to make diagnostic tests, easing access to antiviral drugs, allowing the use of medical devices that remotely measure vital signs, and allowing veterinarians to utilize telemedicine—which was prohibited why?
- Medicare is now paying for telemedicine visits, which makes a lot of sense for people who can't leave their house easily or are at greater risk of infection which, come to think of it, is basically everyone who was on Medicare to begin with.
- HHS said even though they don't fully conform to HIPAA rules regarding privacy and security, doctors may now use Skype and FaceTime for telemedicine because the future is now—or at least it was 17 years ago.
- Numerous states are freeing nonviolent offenders who were put behind bars for technical violations or because they simply couldn't afford bail. Cite-and-release policies are also being enacted across the country, keeping low-level offenders out of jail if there is no risk to the community—and it's a pretty damning admission by authorities that for a long time they've been just fine with locking people up who pose no risk to the community.
- And plastic bags are back, baby! After a hot and heavy fling with reusable grocery bags, politicians are waking up to realize that canvas totes have a secondary function as microbial party buses. So what was once banned is now required, and vice versa…in the name of public safety…subject to change.
Produced by Austin Bragg, research by John Osterhoudt
Music: Vintage Rock by Anton Iliashenko—Pond5