As COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus, continues to spread and people continue to get infected (with some of them dying), American life as we know it is changing by the day.
People, including and perhaps most irresponsibly, the President of the United States, did not take this pandemic seriously until there was no longer any denying it.
As a result, as healthcare systems and other government agencies around the country struggle under the strain of this disease, drastic measures are being taken. The most intrusive are the “stay at home” orders that are coming rapidly via executive fiat from governors and mayors everywhere.
Now, a lot of people are confused as to what this means. It entails forced “social distancing” — no large gatherings such as parties, weddings, Spring Break beach vacations, dining out in restaurants, and the like, will be allowed at all. Only essential businesses such as pharmacies, laundromats, grocery stores, pet stores, and other things that people simply cannot live without will remain open to the public.
Law enforcement will disperse large gatherings of people, and being out and about for no good reason could result in fines and even imprisonment if necessary.
Now, people are not necessarily confined to their homes completely. They can walk around outside while giving a wide berth to others for the sake of exercise, pet walking, or mental health. They can congregate at homes in small numbers, though that is discouraged outside of those in one’s own household regularly. No one is imprisoned, but these orders are being taken seriously.
These orders are in place in densely populated areas as we speak, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Chicago in particular and the entire state of Illinois, New Jersey, and other places where the coronavirus has spread quickly due to sheer population density and proximity to other people due to city lifestyles and living conditions.
Here is New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy explaining his state’s order:
Here is his entire press conference, if you are inclined to watch:
These orders will be sweeping across the nation rapidly in short order. As Americans, we are naturally skeptical of government intrusion into our lives, especially on this level. However, general society cannot be trusted to do this on their own.
Coronavirus is a highly communicable disease that reached pandemic levels via community spread so quickly that the system cannot keep up with it. This has to be a community effort — even a forced one.
Many will look at these orders as a government intrusion into daily life that is unacceptable. However, it is the only way to keep people apart and to stop the spread of the virus. There is plenty of evidence that this is true.
For instance, look at the Spring Breakers in Florida below:
It is these types of attitudes that necessitate these orders. People will have to be forced to comply so that the pandemic does not get worse and kill us all.
As otherwise perfectly healthy people continue to get sick and die, we should be thankful when our municipality takes steps to put a ‘stay at home’ order in place.
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Shannon Barber is a progressive queer feminist and budding political scientist. She is passionate about issues of social justice, including but not limited to racial equality, criminal justice reform, pro-Black politics, and LGBTQ equality. She hopes to change the world, one mind at a time.