Saturday, April 25, 2020

Coronavirus developments: radical restrictions, and a new wrinkle

There is a lot of concern about the on-going restrictions on activities to prevent spreading the coronavirus.

National, state and local leaders must walk a fine line between restrictions for safety and not infringing unnecessarily on their citizens’ freedoms. People are beginning to object to some of the restrictions. And a look at the things some state and local governments are doing reveals just how far over the line some have gone.

One episode in Baltimore reportedly appeared to be a drug raid, as police surrounded the building. It was Sunday, and the building was a church, in which fewer than 10 people had gathered, appropriately spaced, as per instructions. In fact, there were more police present than worshipers.

At a drive-in service in Mississippi, attendees were fined $500, even though they did not leave their cars. And in Kentucky on Easter weekend, police were dispatched to churches to record the license numbers of cars in the parking lots. Three Massachusetts men were arrested, and faced the possibility of 90 days in jail, for crossing state lines and … playing golf.

In some states, citizens are urged to snitch on their neighbors who do not obey the strict stay-at-home edicts. Hardened criminals are being released from prison so they won’t catch the virus, while stores that sell guns to people for their protection are closed. However, pot and booze stores remain open.

In Brighton, Colorado, a family was in an empty park, with the father and daughter playing softball, when police showed up. Officers alleged that the father and daughter had violated the social distancing guidelines. But none of the officers obeyed the social distancing rules they were enforcing.

The father, believing he had done nothing wrong, refused to show the police his ID, and was summarily handcuffed right in front of his wife and daughter and put in the back seat of a police car. Later, the father said, “During the contact, none of the officers had masks on, none of them had gloves on, and they’re in my face handcuffing me, they’re touching me.”

He was released from custody after several minutes, and later was issued an apology from the City. Better late than never.

Not all restrictions are so wildly radical, but citizens in at least six states have started protests over what they see as unreasonable restrictions.

Michigan bans “all public and private gatherings,” but still allows in-person lottery sales. Residents and citizens who own homes in the state in addition to their primary residence may not access their second homes.

A Facebook post declared, “Dope stores? Open. Abortion clinics? Open. Churches? Shut down. Local businesses? Going broke!” At a large protest rally in the Michigan state capitol, protesters carried signs that read, “tyranny worse than the virus” and “honk if you love liberty.”

People in stores that sell both food and other materials were able to buy food, but were prohibited from buying other products, such as hardware supplies and gardening seeds, which were deemed “non-essential.”

Michigan House speaker, Lee Chatfield, posted on Twitter: “Non-essential in Michigan: Lawn care, construction, fishing if boating with a motor, realtors, buying seeds, home improvement equipment and gardening supplies. Essential in Michigan: Marijuana, lottery and alcohol. Let’s be safe and reasonable. Right now, we’re not!”

In too many cases, efforts at imposing safe behaviors have turned into authoritarian malfeasance.

As the struggles against COVID-19 continue, a professor at Tel Aviv University has discovered a new feature of the virus. Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel has determined from analyzing data from nine countries where the virus infected thousands — U.S., U.K., Sweden, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Spain —that regardless of how the country reacted to the virus, all countries experienced common infection patterns.

“His graphs show that all countries experienced seemingly identical coronavirus infection patterns, with the number of infected peaking in the sixth week and rapidly subsiding by the eighth week,” the story reported.

“There is a decline in the number of infections even [in countries] without closures, and it is similar to the countries with closures,” Ben Israel stated in his report.

Addressing Israel’s extremely strict quarantine and closure restrictions, he told the Israeli news agency Mako, “I think it's mass hysteria. I have no other way to describe it. 4,500 people die each year from the flu in Israel because of complications, so close the country because of that? No. I don't see a reason to do it because of a lower-risk epidemic.” 

The US response is less drastic than Israel’s response. But if the professor’s conclusion is correct, the US also has over-reacted, and is still doing so. The frighteningly high predictions of deaths and infections in the models followed by the administration’s virus task force have been greatly lowered. But the restrictions based on those incorrect models remain in place.

Each day those restrictions are in place, our economy incurs further damage, more businesses are on the edge of permanent closure, and people suffer even more of the dangers of isolation, including death.

We need to begin restoring normalcy to the country, and in doing so we must use common sense and practice responsible socializing.

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