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Responding to government lockdowns

OPINION

BY LEN CABRERA

When the COVID-19 hysteria started, people were convinced the government had to do something to avoid the impending doom that was predicted by unverified models from Imperial College and The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Governors were competing to see who could issue more stringent stay-at-home orders, and nearly all of them violated Constitutional rights to free assembly, free exercise of religion, and protection against unreasonable seizures without due process by declaring businesses “non-essential” on a whim. Now we know the models were garbage and COVID-19 is not nearly as dangerous as predicted, especially for young, healthy people. Still, politicians continue to enforce restrictions that violate our rights and are causing immeasurable harm. They must pay for their actions.

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When the IHME revised its model on April 1, the new model projected Florida would have 16,658 hospitalizations and 2,758 deaths by the end of the month (with not very useful confidence intervals of 3,881-46,920 hospitalizations and 1,251-5878 deaths). It also projected 169 deaths per day by April 30.  On that day, Florida had 43 deaths from COVID-19 for a total of 1,268 deaths, less than half of the IHME prediction. Hospitalizations were about a third of the IHME prediction. The IHME predictions were similarly wrong for every state, always in the same direction. It was a biased model, used to lobby and coerce governors to take action that was not needed.

By now anyone with a desire to learn about COVID-19 has seen serology studies. Proponents of the government lockdowns attack individual studies, but the results always show that COVID-19 is far more widespread than the verified cases, and the fatality rate is nowhere near the 3.4 percent the World Health Organization claimed at the start of the panic. Studies from Miami-Dade, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Chelsea, and others put the fatality rate between 0.12 and 0.23 percent of infections. That’s not much different than seasonal flu, which has a yearly fatality rate between 0.10 to 0.18 percent of infections, according to CDC data.

We’ve also learned that COVID-19 barely affects young, healthy people, and fatalities happen almost exclusively when people are older or have underlying medical conditions. In New York City, only 0.6 percent of all deaths were from people with no underlying conditions, 88 percent were people with at least two chronic illnesses, and 73 percent were people over 65. In Florida, 83 percent of COVID-19 deaths have been people over 65. Testing among prison populations (where most inmates are less than 30 years old) showed most positive cases were asymptomatic. Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Tennessee had 53 percent of inmates test positive, and 98 percent of them showed no symptoms. Similar results were found by Reuters in four state prison systems (Arkansas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia): 96 percent of positive cases were asymptomatic.

Rather than targeting the vulnerable populations, governors chose heavy-handed policies restricting the rights of all citizens and ensuring the response to coronavirus would be worse than the disease. Many medical experts, including Dr. Bendavid and Dr. Bhattacharya (Stanford), Dr. David Katz (Yale),  Dr. Michael Osterholm (Minnesota), and Dr. Scott Atlas (Stanford), warned that the shutdowns would not work and would be too costly. It’s not just the additional trillions added to the national debt. The lockdowns have resulted in 33 million unemployment claims. Livelihoods have been destroyed and life savings wiped out.

Now we’re starting to see the impact on our food supplies, as meatpacking plant closures are causing supermarkets to ration purchases. It’s not from lack of supply. A Nebraska hog farmer estimates over 4 million hogs will be euthanized because they can’t be sent to market and are too expensive to maintain on the farms. The supply chain will take months, if not years, to recover from shocks like this.

Lockdown supporters count on ignorance and apathy from a public that has been spoon-fed talking points from complicit media outlets that project New York City’s outbreak of COVID-19 on the entire country. But even before the lockdowns began, it was clear that COVID-19 would not surpass heart disease as the number one cause of death in the U.S. (Click here to view Alachua Chronicle’s previous COVID-19 columns.) The government used the media-fueled hysteria to implement lockdowns that were unjustified and unconstitutional.

A viral epidemic is nothing new in our nation’s history. Philadelphia experienced an outbreak of yellow fever in 1793 that killed 9 percent of the population (5,000 of 55,000). That was only two years after the Bill of Rights was ratified, yet the Founding Fathers did not write additional amendments to the Constitution for viral outbreak exemptions. In fact, the Constitution only lists one exception to any rights: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

Sadly, our increasingly secular society does not acknowledge that our rights come from our Creator, not the government. Rights that are granted by government can be taken away by government. Unalienable rights from our Creator cannot be taken away by government, but they can be trampled, as we’ve seen in the response to COVID-19.

Imagine if the Alachua County Commission responded to HIV the way they did to COVID-19. During their May 5 meeting, the commissioners talked about a needle exchange program, which they  justified because of the cost of treating people with HIV and Hepatitis C. Commissioner Mike Byerly said there are about 1,100 residents of Alachua County with HIV. Why not quarantine the people with HIV to prevent the spread? That’s cheaper than a needle exchange. After all, if it saves one life, it’s worth it, right? Surely if the threat of a couple hundred cases of COVID-19 justifies trampling the rights of everyone in the county, doing so to only 1,100 residents is a no-brainer.

Such action would actually rouse the civil rights organizations that have ignored violations of the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments during the COVID response. The ACLU has parodied itself, focusing mostly on releasing prisoners and keeping abortion clinics open.

You’d think there would be some formal opposition within government to the unconstitutional measures. If anything, all sides seem to push for even more draconian measures. Every proposed solution empowers government and diminishes individual liberty.

Finally, on May 6, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley asked, “Where in the Constitution did the people of Wisconsin confer authority on a single, unelected cabinet secretary to compel almost six million people to stay at home and close their businesses and face imprisonment if they don’t comply, with no input from the Legislature, without the consent of the people?” She also said, “Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work, among other ordinarily lawful activities?”

Sadly, Justice Bradley’s view is not universal in the judiciary. The same day as her comments Dallas Judge Eric Moye tried to violate Shelley Luther’s Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination by demanding an admission of guilt through an apology for “being selfish.” Luther is the owner of a hair salon that opened in violation of the governor’s executive order to close “non-essential” businesses.

Less than 24 hours later, the Texas Supreme Court ordered Luther’s release, but what happens to lawless judges like Moye or the countless politicians that have violated our rights? It’s not just the governors who are to blame. They may be putting police officers and code enforcement officials in a bad position, but “just following orders” is not an excuse. As Steve Deace said, “They cannot carry these things out on their own. There must be somebody at the low level that’s willing to follow orders… That’s what it takes to pull off tyranny. It doesn’t take a megalomaniac madman. It takes a bureaucracy willing to do his bidding.”

We may eventually get more lawsuits, but trying to get recompense from city, county, or state governments will only further punish taxpayers, not the politicians and bureaucrats who caused the problems. A better solution would be to apply United States Code Title 18, Section 242. It basically says that anyone using “law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom” to deprive any person of “any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States” may be fined or imprisoned. Historically it’s mostly applied to police officers, but it may be time to apply the law more broadly.

Alexis de Tocqueville warned that if a centralized administration of a democratic republic got “deep into the habits and the laws of the people… a more insufferable despotism would prevail than in any of the absolute monarchies of Europe.” We’re getting daily reminders of that as we see law enforcement confront citizens to enforce unlawful mandates from governors. It’s time we took some of the power away from the politicians and bureaucrats that have trampled our God-given, Constitutionally-protected rights. If the law will not defend the Constitution, the Constitution is dead, and so is our country.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
― Ronald Reagan

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