The coronavirus has nearly everyone re-evaluating what is a necessity and what is not. While households are making decisions on what travel is essential and which household items to stock up on, state and local governments are re-evaluating what regulations are truly necessary and which ones are just in the way. While I am hopeful things will soon go “back to normal,” I am also hopeful this situation will spur permanent reforms to our laws and regulations.
For instance, North Carolina has wisely repealed the certificate-of-need requirements on hospital beds to address anticipated demand. But we should not just temporarily repeal these onerous requirements during times of desperate need. We should do away with these burdensome restrictions entirely. Removing regulations that artificially limit the capacity of hospitals and independent physicians can help increase access and decrease costs in health care every day — not just during a crisis.
With a statewide stay-at-home order in place, many North Carolinians are experiencing the power of telecommuting, teleschooling, and telemedicine for the first time. Through these channels, we can work, learn, and receive essential services from home. These resources can be powerful.
Through telecommuting, parents can stay home with a sick child and not sacrifice a day’s wages. Through telemedicine, those same families can obtain medical care and a prescription without their feverish child ever needing to leave their bed. Through teleschooling, students whose family finances require them to work during school hours can take online courses after their shift.
People are experiencing just how helpful these tools can be in an emergency, but their usefulness extends far beyond crises. It’s my hope that when ‘normal’ times return, employers will expand their telecommuting policies, lawmakers will eliminate budgetary and regulatory barriers to online courses, and families will hop on their computer next time they need to see a doctor.
The need to keep our distance has also revealed the need for easy access to resources outside of employment and health care, opening opportunities for still more changes and innovations.
For instance, alcohol delivery is something that North Carolina heavily restricts. For one, liquor can never be delivered, but even wine and beer deliveries have tight restrictions. Oh! And don’t try to stock up too quickly on your favorite wine during the crisis because you aren’t allowed to buy more than two cases in a month. These antiquated rules have produced an outcry of support for freeing up alcohol delivery services, as other states have already done.
During this time, people have been taking home closed bottles of beer and wine from their favorite restaurants to have with their meals at home; we should allow for closed-container sales of mixed drinks, as well. If you don’t have the same skills at making a Long Island Iced Tea as your bartender does — or you don’t want to have to purchase the five different liquors it takes just to make one at home — a bartender should be able to sell you your favorite mixed drink in a closed container to drink at home, just as they can a bottle of wine or a can of beer. New York, Texas, and Nebraska recently relaxed their ABC regulations to allow for cocktail delivery. This has helped restaurant businesses compensate for the revenue they are losing during this time. Some bars in New York reported selling as many as 200 cocktails a day!
The coronavirus outbreak has unveiled the demand for so many changes across America. Leaders in North Carolina have an opportunity to make things better in our state, not just today, but when this is all finally over. There is a lot of bad coming out of the coronavirus outbreak; the least we can do is seize the good.
Brenee Goforth is marketing and communications associate for the John Locke Foundation.