Six Ways Government Has Eased Up During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Restrictions on daily life are the norm in the United States under the coronavirus pandemic.

Close to home, for instance, dine-in restaurants, sit-down bars, golf courses, movie theaters, and barber shops are no longer open in Massachusetts by Governor Charlie Baker’s decree. In many ways, state governments and the federal government are exercising more power than usual.

Yet the emergency has also resulted in some deregulation taking place, both at the federal and state level.

Here are six ways the government is exercising less power than usual:


1.  Medical Licensing Reciprocity

Becoming a doctor is still a lengthy process, but the Bay State eased some of its restrictions when it comes to health care licensing. On March 17, Governor Baker put out an order making several temporary changes.

Most notably, those practicing medicine who are “in good standing licensed in other states may obtain emergency licenses to practice in person or through telemedicine,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Additionally, physicians who retired in the past year who are “in good standing” can have their licenses reactivated, and licenses that would be up for renewal for all health care workers will be extended for 90 days after the state’s public health emergency ends.


2.  Plastic Bags

Last week, Governor Baker determined that thin-film plastic bags designed for using one time were not only O.K. to use but vital in helping stop the spread of the virus.

Baker mandated that Bay State communities suspend any restrictions on plastic bags – including fees or outright bans.

He even temporarily banned the preferred of shopping aid of environmentalists – reusable shopping bags.

Medical experts who spoke with New Boston Post last week commended the decision, saying it was safer for grocery baggers to touch a bag previously touched by someone else.


3.  Takeout Alcohol

Although not enacted in Massachusetts yet, some states — like neighboring Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York — are allowing restaurants to sell alcohol as a part of a takeout order for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

The catch is that the alcohol must be purchased with food, according to US News and World Report.

In Massachusetts, Governor Baker made a similar proposal on Tuesday, March 24. But while legislative leaders have expressed interest, the idea has not become law yet.


4.  Homosexual Male Blood Donations

An increased demand for blood as a result of the coronavirus pandemic led the federal Food and Drug Administration to ease the restriction on donations of blood from homosexual men.

One reason the restriction is ordinarily in place is the government’s inability to test blood for AIDS, a disease that is most common in homosexual men.

Now, instead of barring homosexual men who have been sexually active in the past 12 months from donating, the FDA reduced that restriction to the past three months.

Testing for HIV/AIDS in blood has improved over the years; the chances of HIV-infected blood passing a screening test are 1 in 3.1 million, according to The Washington Examiner.


5.  Hand Sanitizer On Airplanes

The Transportation Security Administration is notoriously strict when it comes to liquids, gels, and aerosols being brought on an airplane because of safety concerns. For the time being, however, the federal agency’s hand sanitizer policy is more generous.

Under normal circumstances, the Transportation Security Administration does not allow airplane passengers to bring liquids, gels, and aerosols exceeding 3.4 ounces in their carry-on. For the most part, that remains unchanged. However, as a result of the pandemic, the “TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice,” according to its web site.


6.  Taxes Deadline

The ordinary deadline for filing state and federal income taxes – April 15 – has been pushed back three months – to July 15 – by the federal government and in almost all states that tax income, including Massachusetts.