Is America Being Too Lenient about Their Pandemic Policies?

Benny Po, Staff Writer

With the worst of the pandemic gradually waning, many countries across the world are beginning to transition into the recovery phase. However, the Washington Post reports that “the United States is rapidly nearing 800,000 confirmed cases with 44,000 reported deaths” and new hotspots of COVID-19 are emerging throughout the states. Yet, many states that are still heavily infected are already preparing to reopen non-essential businesses and are beginning to loosen social distancing rules. With poorly enforced social distancing rules already being slowly repealed, many health care officials are arguing that the government’s actions regarding the COVID-19 lockdown have been far too lenient.

While many argue that stricter enforcement of stay-at-home policies and social distancing rules may be a direct violation of the constitution, many other countries hit hard by the coronavirus have enacted these restrictions as a necessary precaution. For example, according to an article posted by the Atlantic, “Italy’s complete lockdown, enforced by criminal penalties, probably violates its constitution. Norwegian lawmakers have proposed an emergency law that temporarily gives the government unprecedented power to override the constitution and national laws to thwart the virus.” However, as a result of these policies, countries like Norway have been able to contain the virus while Italy has exponentially slowed the growth of it. Emergency measures taken worldwide such as easily accessible test kits, police enforcement of social distancing, complete closure of non-essential businesses, and proactive tracing of potential positive cases have proven extremely effective in slowing down the rate at which COVID-19 spreads. However, most of these policies have failed to be completely or effectively enacted in America. The United States now faces the same issue that foreign governments have been dealing with for months: does this pandemic warrant a violation of the constitution?

While it may seem like many Americans would be extremely against any violation of personal liberties, a poll conducted by the Atlantic demonstrated surprising results. Out of a bipartisan sample size of 3,000 citizens, a majority of citizens supported “possible policy responses to the outbreak, all of which may be unconstitutional, including forced quarantine in a government facility, criminal penalties for spreading misinformation, bans against certain people entering the country, and conscription of health-care workers.” An overwhelming response by this poll was that the American government was being too lenient about the methods being used to combat the pandemic. After all, are Americans really expected to follow social distancing rules when it is being enforced about as tightly as jaywalking laws?

For instance, despite the advice of experts warning otherwise, according to Business Insider, Florida is preparing to reopen beaches. In an interview with WJXT, Dr. Mohammad Reza, an infectious disease specialist who is studying the spread of COVID-19 in Duval County, stated that reopening the beaches was “premature” and “not the right move.” Reza believes that the actual number of infected patients is much higher than reported, but “the disconnect is happening because most areas don’t have accessibility to adequate testing.” At this point, opening up a large attraction like a beach certainly seems premature and irresponsible, yet the government continues to loosen lockdown policies rather than tightening them. Instead of punishing those who are ignoring social distancing and promoting public isolation, Florida is prioritizing the reopening of a tourist attraction over the health of their residents.

Larger cities are faring even worse as the lack of proper enforcement and education regarding the pandemic has resulted in a rapid growth of cases. The New York Times reports that New York City has already surpassed 250,000 confirmed cases, and is set to continue to get worse throughout the remainder of April. At this point, without severe implementations regarding restriction of social exposure, New York is set to surpass entire countries in confirmed Coronavirus cases.

So if both health officials and a majority of citizens agree that the government is being too lenient with the lockdown enforcement, why are laws being loosened? One major driving force towards reopening America is the massive hits the economy has taken as a result of the outbreak. Small and large businesses have both suffered losses and many Americans are being forced to choose between exposing themself to the virus or succumbing to poverty. However, the root of this problem stems less from the lockdown restrictions, and more from the absolute inadequacy of the support system for lower income Americans in the time of crisis. While the rest of the world is tightening its policies and reducing social interaction as much as possible, America seems content in their hands-off approach which clearly has not been very effective in containing the coronavirus. In order to prevent the situation from further deterioration, rules regarding social distancing and conscription must begin to be at least reevaluated in the United States.