Jeb Bush and Martin O’Malley on Reopening After COVID-19
Read time: 2 minutes
The first vaccines in the United States were given in December 2020, followed by the rollout of what is probably the largest immunization campaign in history. Since that time, approximately 150,424,675 or 45% of Americans have been immunized. In May, President Biden set the goal of delivering at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July 4. Earlier this year we asked two former governors from both sides of the aisle how, if they were still in office, they might handle vaccines, reopening, and allocating American Rescue Plan funds. What follows are the responses of Martin O’Malley (D), former governor of Maryland, and Jeb Bush (R), former governor of Florida.
As more of the U.S. population gets vaccinated against COVID-19, what would your top priorities be for balancing reopening with public health?
O’Malley: When everyone eligible to receive a vaccination has had ample time to get a vaccination, then we reopen. In a theoretical world, leaders might have wished to achieve herd immunity before reopening. But after such a long period of quarantine, it would seem we reached herd unanimity about reopening before herd immunity against the virus.
States, cities, and counties should use this time to develop more effective contact tracing operations and greater hospital surge capacity.
Bush: I think the emphasis is on opening in a healthy manner. Governors should take what we have learned over the last year to implement strategies to get schools, universities, childcare facilities, offices, and general commercial activities to incorporate public health strategies in everyday life.
How would you think about using or prioritizing federal dollars allocated to states through the American Rescue Plan?
O’Malley: For jobs, for sustainability, and for greater social justice. I’d be looking toward investments in new systems that advance all three — renewable energy, broadband for all, and sustainable public transportation like city rapid bus circulators.
First and foremost, American Rescue money should go to fortify the public health infrastructure. Public health should be the first priority. Equally important, states and local governments should fund strategies to eliminate the digital divide in the urban core and rural areas of the country.