Delegate Dan Cox (R-Emmitsburg), one of the three delegates representing my own District 4, wrote a letter on Thursday to Gov. Larry Hogan demanding that Hogan stand down from some of the measures he has ordered “allegedly because of an ongoing health catastrophe with coronavirus.” (The “allegedly” gave me pause — is Del. Cox suggesting that the ongoing health catastrophe might not be real, or that Gov. Hogan is somehow using a real catastrophe as a pretext?)
In his letter, Del. Cox suggests that Title 14 of the Maryland Public Safety Code does not confer an emergency power of isolation or control over “healthy persons,” although the wording of § 14-3A-03 contains two passages that would appear to do exactly that. One of them (§ 14-3A-03 (d)(2)) is: “If necessary and reasonable to save lives or prevent exposure to a deadly agent, the Governor may order individuals to remain indoors or refrain from congregating.” A second provision (§ 14-3A-03 (b)(3)(iv)) empowers the governor to require individuals to go into isolation until a designated official determines that they do not “pose a substantial risk of transmitting the disease or condition to the public,” a wording that does not apply only to persons themselves sick.
The letter also suggests that the governor’s emergency powers do not extend to businesses not involved in health care, although a section of the Title on emergency health measures addressed to the public (§14-3A-03 (d)(1)) provides that he “may order the evacuation, closing, or decontamination of any facility.”
Del. Cox further asserts that Gov. Hogan has “unilaterally suspend[ed] the Bill of Rights,” a remarkable and disputable claim.
Del. Cox’s letter invokes the U.S. Constitution. I myself have written and spoken a fair bit about how the U.S. Constitution applies in outbreaks of contagious epidemic (the Framers were very familiar with such outbreaks and with the measures taken in response.) I strongly disagree with Del. Cox’s repeated suggestion that the measures are likely violations of the constitution.
Today, Del. Cox was on social media promoting the Annapolis demonstrations demanding relaxation of social distancing in the state, among whose targets is Gov. Larry Hogan.
I am a registered voter and constituent in District 4, and I can state that in doing all of this Del. Dan Cox does not represent my views.
Update: Steve Bohnel of the Frederick News-Post now covers the story in a front-page article and the paper also has published an editorial, both kind enough to quote me.