Covid-19: The coming lockdown
It could be the opening sequence “of a pretty good horror movie,” said Charles McGrath in The Washington Post. The malls and sports stadiums are empty, the parking lots desolate. In movie theaters, dust gathers on the seats, “the popcorn in the popper going hard and stale.” America’s highways have “turned into eerie corridors” and “Times Square is a ghost town.” These scenes don’t come from a new adaptation of a Stephen King novel—this is what life could soon be like in America if the new coronavirus spreads unchecked and officials decide the only solution is to close our public spaces. If you want a glimpse of our future, look at Italy, said Rachel Donadio in TheAtlantic.com. There, the government has locked down the entire country, banning all public gatherings, closing all “cinemas, theaters, concert halls, libraries, and museums.” Travel is restricted to only those facing emergencies, and anyone with even a low fever is quarantined. These are the most sweeping restrictions yet implemented by a Western democracy. “They may soon become the rule.”
Imagine if schools were forced to “close for days, weeks, months, or even a year,” said Ashley Fetters and Timothy McLaughlin, also in TheAtlantic.com. Sports seasons would be canceled, working parents would have no place to leave their kids, and summer vacation could go up in smoke as schools recoup lost days. It’s not far-fetched. Globally, more than 290 million children from pre-K through 12th grade “have been dismissed from school due to Covid-19, some for weeks now.” The outbreak could prove good for big government and “deadly to your liberty,” said J.D. Tuccille in Reason.com. Already, authorities are weighing plans to restrict movement and “proposals for massive federal spending” to stabilize the economy. Make no mistake: When the threat from the coronavirus recedes, it will leave behind a “residue of laws, spending, and precedents” that will affect us all for decades to come.
But if we want to collectively make it through this crisis, we have to accept there will be some infringement on our liberty, said James Traub in The New York Times. I’m not looking forward to being placed in a forced quarantine, but should it come to that, I will accept the “justice of my confinement” if my sacrifice means that my neighbors have a better chance of staying healthy. With “the flood upon us,” Americans will need to “rise to the occasion” and “learn how to build dikes together.” ■