Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Many of us have experienced the empty grocery shelves, the mad run on toilet paper (Calling Mr. Bidet?), and the ubiquitous face of Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes for Health on television broadcasts. Federal and local authorities are stretching their constitutional limits well beyond anything our ancestors would have recognized in their attempts to keep people away from each other and prevent social contact. (I am currently in Sacramento, California, which just has enacted a de facto version of local martial law.)
Almost everyone affected by this cascade of government orders—which pretty much means all of us—has an opinion ranging from that this is not a serious health threat (compared even to the common flu) to the possible need for martial law (from California governor Gavin Newsome). Military terms such as “shelter in place” now are part of ordinary language as governments at every level issue orders, with governors competing to see how they can be perceived as being “in charge” as they bark out increasingly draconian commands, threatening deadly force if necessary.
The costs are indeed mounting. There may be an out-and-out emergency in NYC but in Jamul, CA, not so much. But public health people only care about one thing, or two, and public health is one of them. There are lots of other costs though. It's weird. People acted like this virus was not a thing, but now they're acting like it's the only thing.