Governments in the United States are restricting freedoms to unprecedented degrees in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As dangerous as this expansion of power is, in some ways, federal, state, and local governments are also reducing their intrusions into our lives by cutting many regulations.
This deregulation falls into three categories: help people deal with the virus (including those who are confined to their homes with children who need to be home-schooled); help businesses stay open and cater to their consumers under these unusual circumstances; and free the private health care sector to better respond to the virus.
Here are just a few of the rules that were lifted to enhance our freedom and our safety:
In New York state, the government has suspended a regulation mandating that child care providers undergo criminal background checks. The state’s governor also eliminated almost two dozen other regulations, including those that artificially restrict the number of children allowed in day care facilities to ones that set minimum staffing requirements.
Many states have also lifted restrictions to home-based instructional policies. The Federal Communications Commission waived existing E-Rate rules to allow schools to issue Wifi hotspots or devices to students who lack internet access at home. And the U.S. Department of Education has eased rules that made it unnecessarily difficult for colleges and universities to shift classes online.
To help avoid shortages in stores, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a nationwide exemption to some rules forbidding most commercial truckers from driving more than 11 hours in a 14-hour span. The DOT also relaxed a rule requiring that drivers’ rest periods be a minimum of 10 hours; now each rest period can be split into two separate breaks. In Texas, trucks are now allowed to deliver both groceries and alcohol at the same time. Some states, like Alabama, are also allowing prescriptions to be filled for longer than 30 days. But the best deregulation of an unnecessary rule is that the Transportation Security Administration, at least during this crisis, now allows passengers to bring liquid hand sanitizer containers of up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags.
Many businesses that deal directly with the public may now cater to consumers in ways that were once forbidden. For instance, several states, including Texas and New Hampshire, now allow restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with carryout and delivery orders. New Jersey just allowed microbreweries and brewpubs to deliver beers. Other jurisdictions—in order to reduce the spread of the virus—have lifted their bans on plastic bags and single-use cups. And some states now allow spirit distillers to produce hand sanitizer. Meanwhile, North Dakota now recognizes expired occupational licenses.
Many of these regulations serve no other purpose than to show that the bureaucracy is “working”.