Covid-19 Vs. Our Rights

By Atty. Thomas Renz

The COVID-19 outbreak has mobilized our nation. We are pulling together, helping each other, being kinder, and, for the most part, all doing all that we can to prevent the spread of this infection. Just as has happened during every national crisis I have seen; I find myself amazed at the ability of our nation to pull together during the bad times. I absolutely love seeing all that we are doing as Americans and hope we continue to do so, but I also fervently hope we do this because we should – not because we have to.


Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 there has been growing panic. That panic has grown, and from a legal perspective has resulted in a number of actions by our government that seem to have dramatically overstepped the Constitutional authority given to our state and local executives. When the outbreak began, the original hope of public health officials was that we could contain the infection so, based on the honorable desire to protect life, our elected officials reacted. The problem is that their reaction was not always allowed under the law and now many of these same public health officials have openly stated that containment is failing so why are the executive actions still in place or growing in scope?


The CDC has projected that 40-70% of Americans will end up getting this disease. They have acknowledged that, long-term, containment is not going to be effective. They have also repeatedly stated that for a vast majority of us this disease will have mild to moderate effects and, in many cases, people may not even know they have it. Let me be clear, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THIS IS NOT A DANGEROUS DISEASE. It also does not mean we should do anything less that everything we can to prevent the spread of this disease to those most at risk but again, there is a difference between what we should do and have to do.


The reason for the overreaction that is occurring is because of the state of our healthcare system. This article is not political and I am uninterested in discussing the positives or negatives of any particular law. That being said, after the passage of the ACA (ObamaCare) healthcare systems began consolidating and many hospitals were closed. This means fewer beds are available if a massive public health disaster (like we have occurring now) happens. That is a real issue if the disease spreads rapidly and there is no general immunity to it as could happen with COVID-19.


Another issue is ventilators. Ventilators are important for the treatment of those that end up with severe respiratory symptoms or pneumonia as a result of COVID-19. The shortage of ventilators in the country is well known and the federal government contracted originally with a company in the early years of the Obama Administration to deal with the issue. Unfortunately, the program failed and we are still short on ventilators.


I believe our elected officials are legitimately acting out of concern for the public. On the cynical side of things I also do not for a second believe that these same elected officials have forgotten it is an election year nor are they ignorant to the fact that the media would love nothing more than to do endless stories on people dying in the streets because we have no hospital beds or ventilators. Regardless of their motivations, I am concerned about the precedent being set for the law.


Maybe you love Trump or maybe you hate him. Maybe you like Dewine or maybe you hate him. Whether you liked Obama or love Trump, the problem is that there will always be another elected leader and we need to ask ourselves whether we trust that those leaders will always have the best interests of Americans as their first priority – especially over their own. That is the purpose of the Constitutional limits on power we have in place and why it is so important that we keep them there.


I believe that keeping travel to a minimal is good but let me ask you to consider what the difference is between “shelter in place” and house arrest. In either case our freedoms are being taken but the shelter in place is being done with no due process rights. Would we tolerate this in any other circumstance? Does the fact that we should do this mean that it is okay that we are forced to?


For those of you that want this to be a political issue, lets think about the disproportionate impact this is having on minority communities. If you happen to be a poor minority in an inner city neighborhood is a shelter in place order going to have the same impact on you as the celebrities that are posting their support for the idea in Instagram from their mansions with their staff ensuring they are still getting their hair done and meals prepared? Does anyone believe that the elected officials that are issuing these orders are suffering in the same ways as those inner-city minority populations?


Our rights under the Constitution protect everyone equally and simply must be respected. We absolutely must pull together and support each other during this time and also should take precautions to protect people because it is the right thing to do but that is what America does. We do pull together during times of crisis regardless of politics or any other nonsense. Americans should continue to pull together again but we must do it because it is the right thing to do – not because we have to.

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