A quick summary/paraphrase of an April 12 letter to the editor from a Niceville reader: “The Covid 19 virus requires spreading from a sick human to a well human to survive and spread. If we just obeyed the social distancing and shelter in place rules, this would be over in 2 to 4 weeks. We need robust enforcement of the recommendations of the authorities in this, and willing cooperation from everyone.”
The facts and reasoning are both faulty.
First: We can’t eliminate the virus even if no people are infected. Remember the virus initially came from a bat? It obviously can infect other creatures, and can spread from animal to animal and animals and people. The virus will live on in the animal population. Thus, people can and will get this virus again.
Second: Social distancing and sheltering in place do not prevent spread. The idea is to slow the spread. By reducing human interaction people who were unaware they were contagious would not accidentally spread the virus to as many people as quickly. But, since there is still some interaction and people can be infected and have no symptoms, the disease will still spread.
"Flattening the Curve" buys time to improve treatment capabilities by spreading the infection over a longer time period. If the writer's goal is (as stated) to "get this over with as soon as possible,” then social distancing and sheltering in place are exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. (I do not recommend we get everyone sick ASAP just to get it over with, just pointing out the issue.)
But, here’s the problem: While social distancing may be good advice, I don’t like the idea of allowing the government the authority to ignore our most fundamental legal limits on government power “because it’s a good idea under the circumstances.” It’s fine to recommend religious / social / political meetings be conducted via YouTube or Zoom rather than in person. It’s perhaps wise to avoid public gathering to protest whatever has you hot and bothered at the moment. Maybe it is a bad idea for people to walk down the street at will, without an approved reason. It might make logical sense to not shop for "non-essential" items.
And, of course, we should have tip-lines to turn in our neighbors, and cameras and drones to monitor for violations, and police empowered to enter dwellings without warrant to investigate suspected disobedience, such as a non-permitted gathering. (Yes, all of that is taking place right now. No kidding.)
I am more afraid of a government that can forbid assembly, forbid travel except for “approved purposes,” decide what personal goods, possessions, and activities are essential (or not), and enter my home without a warrant to make sure I am compliant. Such powers are explicitly forbidden by the Bill of Rights, and the power to ignore the Bill of Rights “for good reasons” means it can be ignored at will. For instance, clearly the government should regulate the content of the press to prevent unreasonable agitation or discord, particularly right before elections. Else you might get protests, or even riots!
Even if we could make the virus go away in four or five weeks, we will never get the government to give up such power. Ever. There will always be some “good reason” to impose surveillance and control, once given the power to do so.
I am more afraid of a government that has totalitarian powers (for our own good!) than I am of this virus.