Since mid-March, government response to the coronavirus has been wide and sweeping. States like California, New York and New Jersey are still enforcing strict stay-at-home orders while others such as Florida, Texas and Mississippi have allowed citizens more discretion. Given the varying responses by the government from state to state, we have seen that state and local government, as well as the university, have overstepped their duty to citizens and set arbitrary guidelines counterintuitive to their goal.
Most frustrating in the creation of stay-at-home orders is that arbitrary guidelines stripped away freedom from everyday citizens. Governors enacted quarantine protocols to “flatten the curve” and allow medical professionals and hospitals time to prepare for a massive increase in cases as the virus made its way through communities. But once these medical institutions prepared for an uptick, states remained closed down.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer served as a prime example of an abuse of power. Moving swiftly once the virus hit American soil, Whitmer shut down almost all businesses in the state. When renewing her executive order a few weeks later, restrictions on buying home improvement supplies and gardening equipment were still in place. Protesters flooded the capitol building, begging for their freedom back.
The responsibility of the government to its citizens is more exhaustive than mitigating the threat caused by COVID-19 on a minority of vulnerable communities. There exists a real duty to ensure that citizens have a livelihood and can engage in economic activity. Shuttered states forced small businesses into bankruptcy, destroying more lives economically than could have possibly been lost by the virus.
This does not mean that vulnerable communities should not be protected. As with every disease, including the flu, those most vulnerable should take precautions to protect themselves. Sick individuals should stay home and avoid public interaction until they are well. That is common sense. Such procedures guide social norms for every disease.
Another maddening aspect of these executive orders is that they lack clarity and effectiveness. Why can Black Lives Matter protestors flood the streets of cities across the country, but churches cannot conduct worship services? Regardless of political beliefs, it does not make sense to give certain individuals freedom to gather while limiting other groups of people.
The university has fallen prey to the same ridiculous standards on a smaller scale. In the union, one can eat their lunch without a mask. But the person at the next table must wear a mask because they are working on their computer and not eating. Other than food being present, what is the difference? Surely the person eating cannot be more of a threat to others than the person working if everyone is sitting six feet apart.
It is time to stand up to the government and institutions that sacrifice civil liberties and freedom for the “health and safety” of a small vulnerable community. Wise leaders have faith in their constituents to make informed decisions, knowing the consequences of their actions. Reopen the country and let citizens make the best decisions for themselves and their families.
Lauren Moses is a senior from Coppell, TX studying Economics and Political Science.