Published at 09:15 on 24 March 2020
That should be the takeaway message for responsible state and local governments (and non-government groups of all sorts) in light of the extremely disturbing development that the Mango Mussolini wants to prioritize the economy over millions of lives.
First, despite the panic from some pundits that it will happen soon, a presidential order to end social distancing prematurely has not happened yet, and probably will not happen soon. Why? We haven’t reached the end of that fifteen day period yet, and during the remaining days, the outbreak is only going to get worse. Much, much worse, in fact. (People in New York City may well already be dying due to a lack of hospital facilities by then.) The ability of such horrific news stories to force a recalibration should not be underestimated.
Second, a premature relaxation of measures probably will happen later, when the rush on the hospitals starts winding down. This would be a grave error (literally grave, as in many graves), because it will simply prompt a rebound that would likely be worse than the first peak.
At that point, it will be up to the state governments, local governments, and private, non-government organizations to step in. The easy part will be the simplest: do nothing. When the Trump regime starts pleading to end the lockdowns, ignore it. Only end social-distancing measures when science indicates it wise.
But it will be necessary to go further. Some parts of the country will choose to follow Trump over the cliff. Absent further action, they will serve as sources of contagion, sickening the public in responsible regions. Preventing this will require states challenging Federal authority on a scale not seen since the nineteenth century. The weak-willed who might hesitate at such a notion should reflect that any weakness at that time will be paid for in human lives.
Governors can deploy their states’ National Guard and set up border checkpoints to prevent non-essential land travel, and to restrict airport use to prevent non-essential air travel. This would probably get challenged as a violation of the commerce clause of the US Constitution. A ruling favorable to the Trump regime is not a foregone conclusion, however, as the constitution gives to Congress (not the president) the power to regulate commerce amongst the States.
Even if a ruling favorable to Trump happens, however, it can be ignored. Why jump over a cliff just because an irresponsible leader elected by a minority of voters wants to? Remember, lives are at stake. Act decisively now and apologize later.
Private organizations can play their part. For example, unions representing airport workers could stage work actions whereby they refuse to allow nonessential traffic to proceed to the gates, thereby preventing the importation of infected people traveling from irresponsibly-governed regions. (More than likely, airlines would respond by simply refusing to serve such airports with passenger traffic, which is of course pretty much the whole point.)
The same goes for local governments below the state level. Houston is an island of blue in a mostly red state. Its two airports are owned and run by the city government, so that owner could restrict their usage to essential purposes should it wish. In fact, most airports are owned by local public agencies, and most large cities have majorities that oppose Trump, so such measures alone could be used to effectively restrict a significant amount of non-essential air travel nationwide.
The time to start making plans for such actions is now. Hopefully they will never be needed, but if they are, lives depend on them being ready to roll out and put into place on a moment’s notice.