In addition to inflicting life-threatening illness, the coronavirus is proving to be fertile ground for dangerous ideological zealotry. Misguided anti-government types are defying stay-at-home orders and quarantine mandates saying they violate constitutional rights. And conservative governors in a handful of states are holding out against statewide isolation measures.
Just over the state line in Idaho, a large number of libertarian ideologs are defying bans on public gatherings to voice their opposition to any kind of government control. And they are doing so in the face of a very troubling spike a coronavirus cases and nearly a score of deaths in that state.
In this perilous pandemic, it’s time to give political extremism and conspiracy theories a rest.
Business shutdowns and isolation and quarantine orders are not unconstitutional. The government’s authority to impose these measures derives from the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution that authorizes measures to prevent the spread of disease. The courts have also long recognized the need for temporary governmental authority during times of war. And the struggle against coronavirus has been widely recognized as such an effort.
Conspiracy theories are gospel to the ill-informed and a form of amusement to others. But with the extreme stakes on the line during this pandemic, this is no time to be dabbling in fantasy. Now is the time to practice discretion in where we get our information and what we believe, and government agencies are the most authoritative source of information during this pandemic. To be sure, government can be a clumsy source of frustration for all of us at times. But when a unified effort is called for to combat a common lethal enemy, only government can fill that role. This is one of those times.
Mandated quarantines, stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns have had severe impacts on the economy nationally and locally. But they are having the desired effect. There a clear signs they are slowing the spread of the coronavirus and saving lives. The handful of states refusing to impose statewide isolation orders are only impeding that progress.
And the zealots like our fellow citizens in Idaho who are using the pandemic to call attention to themselves and their misinformed causes are just putting all of us in greater danger.