HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii has the lowest COVID-19 infection rate of any state in the nation. It’s also a pandemic standout for a more dubious reason: instituting the most extreme restrictions on the public’s access to official records.
In March 2020, Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation suspending the state’s three-decades-old open records law, which aims to protect the public interest by exposing government to scrutiny.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — As the coronavirus swept across Oklahoma and the nation last spring, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office was inundated with correspondence from frightened residents seeking stricter lockdowns to control the spread of the virus.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — While New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has pledged to be transparent throughout the coronavirus pandemic, his administration has denied or slowly responded to requests for records related to spending, communications and decision-making.
Sunshine Week, an annual focus on press freedoms and the fight for government transparency, comes a year after the state marked its first positive case and, soon after that, the first death from the virus.
As states prepared to reopen their economies following coronavirus shutdowns last spring, The Associated Press asked governors across the U.S. for records that could shed light on how businesses and health officials influenced their decisions.
It wasn’t long ago when a “public meeting” of the city council or state legislature meant the general public could show up to watch and, quite often, speak about proposals and perceived problems.
The coronavirus pandemic has put an end to that in many places, perhaps permanently altering the way the American public interacts with government.