Posted on: April 20, 2020 at 5:13 pm

The United States is the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. Indeed, today’s largest economic power was built on the fundamentals of individual freedom and civil liberty, as opposed to strict governmental control.

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The COVID-19 pandemic that has spread rapidly across the country, however, has become a massive threat to those personal rights and freedoms. Governments in states around the US have mandated that all schools, restaurants, businesses, and nonessential services be closed. Citizens are being asked to stay in their homes and avoid groups, and every day stay-at-home laws are becoming increasingly restrictive.

Never before has the American public been subjugated to such intense government control over their daily lives, and many are not taking it well.

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As many states enter into their second month of lockdown controls, protests are beginning to erupt across the country. Demonstrators in Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky have begun marching in the streets, claiming that the government is removing their constitutional rights and demanding that America be “reopened” [1].

Read: Theory: Evidence Suggests Pangolins May Have Passed Coronavirus From Bats to Humans

Kentucky Residents Put on House Arrest

After breaking quarantine orders, two coronavirus patients and one relative of a patient in Louisville, Kentucky, have now been ordered by circuit judges to wear ankle monitors. These individuals are not charged with a crime, however, circuit judges can approve or deny requests from public health officials for a person to be self-isolated under state law [2].

One of these patients was given the order after breaking quarantine to go shopping on March 21, and the other two were ordered to wear the devices after testing positive for the virus but refusing to stay indoors.

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The Louisville area has over two hundred cases of the virus, and Mayor Greg Fischer is asking the public to please take the situation seriously. The city’s chief of public services, Amy Hess, says that they would prefer not to force people to wear ankle monitors, but in some cases it is necessary.

“We can monitor activity … to make sure they’re not further affecting the community,” she said [2].

Read: Opinion: Why Fearing the Coronavirus Should be the Least of Your Worries

Freedom vs. Safety

There are those who believe that many countries have gone far past what is necessary in terms of restricting democratic liberties in order to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. These restrictions include increased surveillance, suspension of rights, control over information, and delayed elections [3].

In some countries, governments are now able to track citizens’ whereabouts using tracking software on smartphones without the need for a court order. In some states, governments are now introducing the use of drones to monitor the population and ensure that people are respecting social distancing laws, as is the case in New Jersey.

Chris Bollwage, mayor of Elizabeth, NJ, announced recently that drones will now be flying overhead to alert people to move away from each other if they are congregating. Those who are found in violation of social distancing measures risk receiving a fine of up to one thousand dollars [4].

While many people agree that measures such as these are necessary during a time of crisis, the fear is that once the pandemic is over, governments will be resistant to giving up these new powers [3]. 

During the last month, many fundamental rights have also been suspended, including freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and protection against warrantless searches and warrantless arrests. 

It is, of course, crucial that people be barred from meeting in groups or traveling freely in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, however, there are many who believe that removing the need for a warrant to search or arrest an individual is too extreme and unnecessary [3].

In numerous countries around the world, governments have made it illegal for the media and news outlets to publish any information about the virus with being first cleared by government officials. 

In some cases, laws such as these may be necessary to prevent the spread of misinformation, however, when governments begin to punish journalists for publishing information that they don’t agree with, they begin to trend toward a totalitarian-style government, and away from democracy.

Finally, since public gatherings are currently unsafe and unlawful, it may be necessary in many countries around the world to delay election processes, at least for a short amount of time. This is for the good of the community, however, it runs the risk of being used by the current party or leader in power to retain their position longer than they otherwise would have.

Recently, President Trump has threatened to adjourn congress and lead the government alone. Putting that much power into the hands of one individual is a direct threat to democracy, and while it is unlikely that this will happen, many Americans are fearing what could happen if the president had absolute control over the entire country [5].

Freedoms Must be Sacrificed for Public Safety

While the current restrictions in states across the country feel unlawful and have many Americans feeling angry, frustrated, and fearful, they are absolutely necessary in order to prevent millions of more people from getting sick and possibly dying. 

As of April 20th, there have been more than 760 thousand cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and over forty thousand people have died. With these numbers continuing to rise, our governments, health officials, and citizens must do everything they can in order to get this pandemic under control.

Yes, there is a concern that our fundamental rights and freedoms are being taken away, and the fear that our country may never be the same again, but currently the only thing we can do is follow social distancing orders to protect our loved ones and the vulnerable people in our communities.

Keep Reading: Do You Have Pandemic Anxiety? Tips to Cope If You may be Sleepless, Forgetful and Angry.

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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