Are COVID restrictions still worth the cost?
The assessment must be honest, and constant. So much is at stake.
Where government intervention is still necessary to protect the population from further transmission and fatality, the agreement must be clear and temporary between the people and local authorities.
This cannot become our new norm.
As J.D. Tuccile laments in his article in Reason Magazine, “We're supposed to accept our newly constrained lives as ‘the new normal.’ He later quotes a court opinion from September that ultimately struck down excessive government restrictions in Pennsylvania. Judge Stickman’s words are worth repeating:
"The Constitution cannot accept the concept of a 'new normal' where the basic liberties of the people can be subordinated to open-ended emergency-mitigation measures… Rather, the Constitution sets certain lines that may not be crossed, even in an emergency."
That line set by the Constitution is important. In many cases in the particular, it will be for an independent court to decide exactly where they lie, but there must be a line. Liberties infringed upon for public health cannot be held indefinitely.
When initially executed, lockdowns were described as a method of “flattening the curve.” That is, to slow the rate of COVID transmissions while our medical industry built and reinforced the infrastructure necessary to treat the worst COVID manifestations. Yet, many around the country still live under incredibly burdensome lockdown.
In a policy reversal, the World Health Organization Special Envoy on COVID-19 stated in an October interview, “We...do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus… The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”
As Tuccile compiled, The Harvard International Review, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations have all issued various warnings about the harm caused to rights either by or under the guise of lockdowns internationally.
We should be no less concerned about lockdowns in America.
For example, the right to religious liberty.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has focused on the Jewish community in his state as frequent lockdown violators. “If you’re not willing to live with these rules, then I’m going to close the synagogues,” he threatened.
Masks are perhaps the new symbol of compliance. The CDC has waxed and waned about the level of effectiveness of masks and their role in reducing the spread of infected airborne particulate. Masks aren’t bad, but the unexamined masked life is not worth living.
Georgi Boorman of the Federalist points out that Governor Whitmer of Michigan wants masks to be worn while playing sports, even though this mandate makes playing sports more dangerous. An agency in Wisconsin has asked employees to wear masks while teleconferencing from home, even when completely alone.
Some scientists are even making the case that the collateral damage to public health caused by the lockdowns potentially exceeds the damage they seek to prevent.
Not to mention, COVID precautions have devastated the economy and cost millions of Americans their jobs or businesses. Money is not more important than life, but the health of the economy must be a factor in assessing the health of the nation.
Good governance has two consistent attributes that are largely missing from current COVID regulatory dialogue: granularity and limits.
Government action should be localized to the particular geographic demands of COVID, and fine-tuned to those specifically susceptible (like the elderly and those with underlying conditions).
Likewise, government action to reduce COVID fatalities should be ordered with clear and articulated limits.
Experts and health professionals should of course make appropriate recommendations to local authorities when lives can be saved with temporary action or restriction. A political leader should listen to those professionals. But liberty should always weigh in to those decisions as well. It is a balancing test.
COVID has taken so much from us already. Our liberty cannot be another casualty.
Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.