Social Distancing is not Tyranny

America, at the time I write this, is currently approaching 700,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and is well over 30,000 confirmed cases. The growth rate is not slowing down in a significant manner, testing continues to stay below a desired amount, and hospitals are still reporting a lack of necessary resources.

Most states have issued stay-at-home orders, similar to those in Rhode Island: closing schools, non-essential business, and forcing social distancing policies in places deemed essential. While it is certainly understandable for these changes to be hard to adapt to, it should be considered that they are still necessary, they slow down the spread of the disease; they “flatten the curve,” meaning while they may not lower the total number of people infected by a great amount, it does spread out the rate at which people become infected.

These policies are important because they prevent the medical system from being overwhelmed, allowing for more people to be treated and saved. Even with these policies, some states, New York and Massachusetts for example, are seeing limitations in capacity and resources. The only way we can see these problems go away, and in turn save countless lives, is through keeping these policies in place; for some states, expanding these policies may be necessary.

Despite the fact that social distancing is a vital part of combating COVID-19, we have seen that people in some states are pushing to have such policies end. In Michigan, a group called “Liberate Michigan” gathered, reportedly by the hundreds, outside of their governor’s home to call for the end of stay-at-home policies.

Minnesota, Virginia, and Ohio are also examples of states which had people come out in droves, breaking the stay-at-home and social distance policies of their states, in order to protest said policies. President Donald Trump, who is very avid about loosening restrictions which states have put up to combat the spread of COVID-19, stoked the fires of these protestors, tweeting to “LIBERATE” the states of Minnesota, Virginia, and Michigan.

I have some issues with the use of the term “liberate” in this context. Beyond the fact that a president of a country essentially calling for an insurgency within his own nation seems incredibly oxymoronic, I have to ask myself what these people would be “liberated” from. Liberation implies a sort of tyrannical force which is binding the people, something they must be free from. Despite claims that these policies are tyrannical, they simply are not. It is the role of the government to protect its people and keep them safe, that is what these policies accomplish.

People are still able to get their necessary resources. In fact, while these businesses being opened are typically referred to as “essential,” it is not essential in an “only the essentials” bare-minimum mentality. It is not as though people are living on rations. For the most part, the day-to-day lives of Americans are really unchanged. The types of businesses which are open are, for the most part, the types of businesses which would be visited regularly, spare restaurants and recreational facilities.

That, of course, leads to the central motivations behind people calling for these policies to be lifted, certainly it is the reason that President Donald Trump wants them to be lifted: the economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, about 10% of the American workforce filed for unemployment in the past four weeks.

The economy of America is taking a hit, and so too are the workers. While for some people this may seem like a very casual stay-at-home vacation, it is a very chaotic time for many people out of work who, even with government support, are at risk of completely losing their livelihoods. When people are calling for “liberation” it is not because of their state governments being tyrannical, leaving them with little to nothing, it is because many feel an existential dread at the idea that they are at risk of losing their homes or their businesses.

I then must ask myself: how can we solve this? On one hand, we can’t have people dying; yet, we can’t have people coming out of the COVID-19 calamity only to end up in a financial calamity. How about this: instead of calling for the governors to open up their economies, in turn risking the deaths of thousands, people should focus their dread, their fear, their anger, and direct it towards the national government.

While there have already been policies passed by Congress to attempt to boost the economy, the people protesting for “liberation” should instead call for more money to be placed into supporting the unemployed and the small businesses when Congress is back in session. The people should not have to decide between life and livelihood: they have the right to both being protected by the government.

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