Americans have in several states been living under virtual house arrest ordered by their Governors. Travel outside the home except to buy groceries or pot is banned in many states. The Mayor of New York City has said that any churches that violate his orders will be closed “permanently” and several Governors have outlawed protests against their orders. The stories of people being arrested for playing catch with their children, surfing by themselves or playing golf are seen daily in the press. In California, people sitting in their cars enjoying the sunset were ticketed earlier this week and will have to pay a one thousand dollar fine.
These orders are all being issued in the name of public health even though many of them make little or no sense from a public health perspective. Is it, for example, outrageous for protestors in Michigan to ask their Governor why banning them from purchasing house paint or garden seeds will help defeat the Coronavirus? Or for a retired law enforcement officer in Colorado to wonder why he should be arrested for playing catch with his daughter in a public park that was open and what his arrest will do to save his fellow citizens from infection?
Now there is evidence that the degree of infection and the death rate per million in the eight states that have refused to issue stay at home orders are no higher and in several cases much lower than in those states that have banned life as usual. In each of these states, the Governors have closed restaurants and the like, but haven’t closed their economies or banned activities that have no logical or proven role in fighting the pandemic. Each has, instead, relied on their citizens to make rational decisions and have had faith in them to voluntarily maintain “social distancing” and large crowds. Their approach has widespread support within their states and they face neither the protests nor coming widespread refusal to obey the mandatory rules being promulgated for no good reason in other states. Others, however, have attacked them for not going along with the quasi-dictatorial approach taken by other Governors.
Last week, Professor Wilfred Reilly of Kentucky State University released a study of the infection and death rates per million inhabitants in those eight states (Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North & South Dakota. Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming) as compared to the rates in the states with draconian shelter at home rules. The study took into account various factors including population density, median age, income and diversity and found that from a statistical perspective at least much of what was being ordered or banned has had little impact on the Coronavirus. If Professor Reilly’s findings are correct, Americans are being deprived of their traditional rights and freedom by Governors and Mayors based more on a whim than on actual data.
Some, like New Jersey’s Governor Philip Murphy, have little regard for individual freedom anyway. He dismissed concerns about individual freedom last week by telling television interviewer Tucker Carlson that ”The Bill of Rights is above my pay grade.” Others, perhaps remembering the oath they took when elected may, on seeing the evidence, actually begin loosening up and allowing citizens of their states to begin reclaiming the rights that have been taken from them for what turns out to be no good reason.
Or at least we can hope they will.