Governor Gavin Newsom of California has taken a significant step in trying to combat the spread of COVID-19 by ordering the state’s 40 million-plus residents into a lockdown situation. Will this drastic plan of action achieve its goal, or is it more likely that putting an entire population under virtual house-arrest will create more problems than it can solve?
The order outlines that all citizens must stay home except for those in 16 “critical infrastructure” sectors. People will be allowed to go out for grocery shopping but at all other times must remain isolated. Governor Newsom issued the order most likely as a direct result of health officials estimating that 56% of The Golden State’s population would become infected over the next eight weeks. But is this just one giant exercise in trying to appear in control and demonstrating leadership? The fact is that trying to control the movement of millions of people may lead to a whole host of constitutional, functional, and social problems far greater than the one it claims to be solving.
The Hill reports that those found violating the order could be fined up to $1,000. In a time when many people are not working or earning a wage, how likely is it that they will meekly stand by and receive their punishment? How will authorities enforce the law? Most importantly, who will be the judge of whether a person found outside the home is not just on their way to get groceries or engaged in some essential activity? This is a system that is ripe for abuse.
And what of California’s homeless population? With 150,000 people living without shelter, where does Governor Newsom expect these poor souls to be if not on the street? While aggressive panhandling is illegal in the state, many homeless people rely on cash from passersby, or on food scraps from restaurants to survive; with many food venues shut down, they will resort to asking for handouts from those who venture to the stores.
Safe Space Stores?
Californians will still be allowed to visit stores to purchase supplies. Citizens “should at all times practice social distancing.” If the only place regular folks are permitted to go is the store, how will they manage to socially distance themselves? Imagine a regular shopping day, and then think of how many people are not in the store … they are at Starbucks, they are checking out the latest fashion, they are at work, they are at school, with friends, with family. Now take all those other options away. California will see an ocean of people descend on the stores. So much for social distancing.
The First Domino
Now that California has enacted a virtual lockdown, other governors and state legislatures will feel at risk of being left behind or made to look indecisive. No state wants to be the first to enact such drastic measures, but now they may feel they have no choice. The floodgates have been opened, and all that remains is to flow with the torrent.
The states that follow will not be doing so because they think it is going to be effective, but because of fear. If California can show that their infection rate is less than the 56% they predicted, all and sundry will declare a victory. For those that don’t follow suit, in this age of screeching righteousness, they will be lambasted for even a single death. Prepare for the other dominoes to start falling.
Read more from Mark Angelides.
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