PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A Rhode Island state senator is pushing back against Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to continue imposing coronavirus-related restrictions as the state slowly reopens.
“I can no longer remain silent,” Sen. Elaine Morgan wrote in an open letter posted on Facebook calling on Raimondo and the General Assembly to reopen the state with no restrictions.
“Our constitutional rights are under attack by an unseen enemy,” Morgan, R-Hopkinton, wrote. “Politicians are paralyzed with fear to take an adversarial stand.”
The lawmaker said she decided to speak out in part after making a Memorial Day visit to her father’s grave at the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter, where she said she reflected on the sacrifices made by previous generations.
“Do not let these sacrifices be in vain by voluntarily giving up those rights,” she wrote, adding, “Never before in our history have we citizens been ordered to give up freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, freedom to peacefully protest, freedom from unreasonable searches or seizure, and freedom of unrestricted Interstate travel.”
Morgan emphasized that she was “in no way minimizing” the state’s more than 600 COVID-19 deaths.
“If this pandemic is biological warfare we need to stand up and fight it,” she said. “The only way we are going to win this war is to get out there build up immunity and antibodies against the virus that was created. Healthy people recover from this virus. We cannot let fear defeat us and cause total destruction to our nation.”
In her letter, she suggested many doctors think some of the current restrictions are “not logical or based on science.” She also discouraged the use of face masks, saying they can have a “detrimental effect on the respiratory, cardiovascular, and cognitive functions” and are not actually protecting people from COVID-19.
“They actually deplete and weaken the immune system,” she wrote. “Are we setting ourselves up for a resurgence of this virus in the fall by weakening our immune systems? People need to have a choice of whether to wear a mask or not.”
Raimondo has issued an executive order requiring Rhode Islanders to wear masks in public places such as stores and restaurants. R.I. Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott has said wearing a cloth face covering can prevent spread of the virus through respiratory droplets.
During her daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Raimondo urged Rhode Islanders to continue following her rules and directives, though she has acknowledged some are frustrated.
“I’m worried that people think, ‘oh, we’re going to get our hair cut, we can relax,'” Raimondo said. “It’s actually the opposite. We are going to be able to do that, therefore it is more important than ever that we follow the rules.”
Asked Tuesday how soon she could imagine lifting the mandates to wear masks and social distance, Raimondo said, “I don’t see it happening in the next five or six months.”
She said the keys to that happening are either an effective therapeutic, widespread immunity or a vaccine.
Jennifer Douglas, who is running against Morgan in November, fired back, calling Morgan’s letter, “astoundingly callous, misguided and potentially deadly.”
“Our service men and women who fought for our rights and our freedoms absolutely did know sacrifice,” Douglas said. “I also spent my Memorial Day thinking about my family members who gave up so much for this country, and I know one thing. They would weep at the disgraceful lack of humanity in these statements.”
“Wearing a face covering is not a sacrifice,” she continued. “We are being asked to do the bare minimum to keep others safe, so that when we can return to the freedoms we enjoy because of their sacrifices we can do so with the greatest number of people that we love surrounding us.”