Thanksgiving has not been canceled. Yet. But given what we’ve learned in recent days, would anyone be surprised if officials insisted we mark the holiday this year by cowering in our basements?
On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the governors of Oregon and Washington issued a travel advisory “urging visitors entering their states or returning home from travel outside these states to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the virus.” The governors announced their disapproval of “non-essential out-of-state travel,” and are asking “people to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country and encourage residents to stay local.”
While they are not stay-home-at-home orders, they’re clearly intended to make traveling to see family and friends a journey so punishing that for many a trip just won’t be worth it.
Of course, government instructions are only for the little people. The week before the advisory was released, Newsom and his wife attended a birthday party at the French Laundry in Napa County where there were more than a dozen people.
Forget the hypocrisy for a moment and reread the first part of his confession. He and his family “followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions.” He didn’t believe he needed an authority to tell him what to do. He trusted the rules established by a private business that’s self-interested in keeping its patrons healthy. Why can’t the rest of us enjoy the same freedom? Why must our activities be dictated by commands that have come down from on high?
A few days before the travel advisory, the Newsom administration renewed a set of guidelines that other Californians are expected to comply with. The Guidance for Public Gatherings does not mention Thanksgiving, Christmas, or holidays. Nevertheless, the effects will be the same as if it had.
In Purple Tier counties:
- “A gathering of no more than three households is permitted in a public park or other outdoor space, even if unrelated gatherings of other groups up to three households are also occurring in the same park or other outdoor space.”
- “If multiple such gatherings are occurring, mixing between groups gatherings is not allowed.”
- “Multiple gatherings of three households cannot be jointly organized or coordinated to occur in the same public park or other outdoor space at the same time.”
In addition, “singing, chanting, shouting, cheering and similar activities are strongly discouraged at outdoor gatherings and prohibited at indoor gatherings.”
Since the rules include no specific days or dates, Newsom can deny that he dished out a set of special holiday guidelines. But that doesn’t mean he still won’t, or that county officials will be too timid to crack down. With positive coronavirus tests rising, the smell of panic is in the air. And it was particularly strong on Monday when Newsom pulled the “emergency brake” on reopening California. Now 41 of the state’s 58 counties have fallen into Purple Tier detention. Expect others to be added soon, because the governor said he is unwilling to wait “the extra day or extra week” for his next crackdown.
Newsom also expects all Californians to wear – outside of a few exceptions – a mask when outdoors and there is even talk of a curfew, which will remind many that H.L Mencken famously said “the urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” All of this is being done independent of the legislative process that is used to produce legitimate law in a representative republic.
Because they are risk-averse, and too often because they like to order other people’s lives, both elected and unelected officials easily default to the lockdown position. Yet we know closing the economy and cutting off social interaction is also deadly. Forcing people to shelter at home sends “disruptive economic shockwaves,” says Ethan Yang of the American Institute for Economic Research, and at the same time affects “health care practices needed to combat Covid-19.”
Yang also quotes the late Dr. Donald Henderson, “the man who led the war to kill smallpox,” who wrote in 2006 that “there are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods to slow the spread of influenza.”
Even the Lancet reports that full lockdowns “were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people,” nor were they “associated with statistically significant reductions in the number of critical cases.”
Journalist John Tierney believes lockdowns “are surely the most risky experiment ever conducted on the public.”
“From the start, researchers have warned that lockdowns could prove far deadlier than the coronavirus,” he writes in the current issue of City Journal. “People who lose their jobs or businesses are more prone to fatal drug overdoses and suicide, and evidence already exists that many more will die from cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, and tuberculosis and other diseases because the lockdown prevented their ailments from being diagnosed early and treated properly.”
There is no intention here to downplay the coronavirus threat. It causes a deadly disease in some and triggers a serious though not fatal illness to others. But not all. It’s well known who is most vulnerable and who will almost certainly shrug off the virus. Officials should be putting greater efforts into protecting the former, and less into punishing everyone else. The sledgehammer approach has made matters worse.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.