A closed sign on a barbershop in New London on April 15. As COVID-19 started to spread in Connecticut, the state shut down barbershops and salons in March. Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Recently, while giving an online lecture to the Federalist Society, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito stated how COVID-19 restrictions have been a type of “stress test” for the constitution. I believe that is most evident in mandated lockdowns.

This is the first time in American history we have seen prolonged government interference in the private sector. Here in Connecticut we had our original lockdown that was supposed to “flatten the curve.” What was once a 15-day plan exponentially grew each week with individual phases where privately owned businesses were directly told by the government what they can and cannot do. I believe these restrictions are unconstitutional, harmful to our fragile economy, and that they endanger small businesses.

I am aware of the risks and spread of COVID-19 and endorse all safety measures presented by the CDC, but closing privately owned businesses, preventing employers and employees from makinbg a living is completely unconstitutional. This action is a direct contradiction of the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment, which states “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

This contradiction is made clear by the state deeming some businesses and employees “essential” and “unessential.” To me that sounds like the definition of inequitable protection.

Connecticut has had numerous economic problems over the past decade plus, such as ever-rising taxes, pensions, and businesses big and small leaving the state. You may assume that our state would want to get people back to work as soon as possible, but you would be dead wrong. The state actually increased our spending and subsequently our debt to astronomical proportions while also incentivizing people to stay home and not work.

While most states were sending out proportional unemployment benefits, Gov.Ned Lamont decided that Connecticut would take a nonsensical one-size-fits-all approach to unemployment by giving every resident who had gotten laid off a massive payout of $600 a week. So, if you had an income of well over $600 a week you would’ve gotten the same amount of money as the kid who works one day a week who may not even make that amount in a month. Look, I’m 19, I got laid off and I didn’t know when I’d get my job back, but I never thought I deserved more than I would usually make in a week for doing absolutely nothing. Lamont eventually came to his senses and stated it may discourage people to work, multiple months later in June.

With all this going on, businesses are still taking massive losses. These don’t include the McDonald’s, Starbuck’s, and the Dunkin’s because those are all multinational conglomerates. The real businesses taking hits are the family-owned and small businesses, those are the businesses that need to worry about pinching pennies, because to them this is not just a temporary lull, this is “Can I afford to feed my family?” No American family should ever even think of asking this question because the government will not let them run their own business how they want to.

For our government to order private citizens to stay home and private businesses to close is not only wrong and unconstitutional, but it is a cop out. It evades all responsibility, and directly infringes upon the rights of private citizens. Instead of constantly closing and reopening our state we should be finding ways to keep our state open.

To some who may say that we are mitigating damage by closing our state I would respond by saying, the damage that we will see after this will be irreparable and hurt this state long term. We need to see something from our Democrat representatives in Hartford. With their super majority in both the Senate and the House next term, they hold all the power.

We need leadership and innovation in Hartford because it won’t be long until the damage being done to these businesses becomes permanent, just because they are playing politics.

Chris Peritore is a college student and line cook from Easton.

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