The Uses and Abuses of COVID-19

Governmental overreach made (and makes) combatting COVID-19 more difficult.  Here are three examples.

First up, a judge in family court in Cook County, Illinois issued an order stating that a divorced mother, Rebecca Ferlit, could have no contact with her 11-year-old son because she hasn’t been vaccinated against COVID. 

A stranger order is hard to imagine for a variety of reasons.  First, neither the father nor the mother asked the judge to issue such an order.  He just did it anyway.  Second, the hearing at which the order was issued had nothing to do with custody or parenting time, much less vaccinations.  Third, Mom had a perfectly good reason for not being vaccinated: she was following her doctor’s orders.

Firlit, who has not said if she will get the vaccine, told the judge her decision not to take it was not political.

“I’ve had adverse reactions to vaccines in the past and was advised not to get vaccinated by my doctor,” she said. “It poses a risk.”

It’s no secret that family court judges routinely behave like small potentates unanswerable to either appellate courts or statutory or constitutional law.  They claim to be acting in “the best interests of the child,” but the definition of that term is anyone’s guess, allowing judges to make up the concept as they go along.  They also routinely and unconstitutionally restrict parents’ rights to free speech and association.  The Cook County judge plainly overreached.  (The next day fortunately, he rescinded his order.)  

Second, for months we’ve been learning of the serious health problems resulting from COVID lockdowns.  People have been putting off medical procedures due to fears of coming into contact with others who’ve been infected.  That’s caused greater compromise of immune systems and the mental health of many people, plus deferring of needed testing. Now we learn that the yearlong lockdown had yet another adverse health result - increased childhood obesity.  And, since obesity is highly associated with poorer COVID outcomes, there appears to have been a recent surge in hospitalizations of children.  As commentator Hans Bader points out,

Advocates of school closings claimed they were needed to protect people’s health. But by driving up obesity rates, school closings harmed students’ health. And shutting schools actually increases COVID-19 deaths, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh…

In the past, the CDC has pointed out that closing schools “can lead to severe learning loss,” and that school closures kill more children than COVID.

That last fact seems to mostly result from the blow to children’s mental health due to their inability to socialize with friends and attend classes.  Suicides among the young have spiked during the lockdowns at rates enough above baseline to allow the CDC to conclude that more children are dying from the lockdowns than from COVID.  Meanwhile, much of the rest of the developed world sees no reason to close schools.

Schools have long been open in many countries, such as Spain, Italy, France, Norway, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and Russia. “France has kept schools open throughout most of the Covid pandemic,” notes RFI.

What’s causing the continued inability of kids in the U.S. to attend school?  Mostly political kowtowing to teachers’ unions that have doggedly resisted re-opening even in the face of the mounting evidence that doing so would benefit the children they tell us they’re concerned about.

Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court has vacated the stay of a lower court’s order enjoining the Biden Department of Health and Human Services from continuing its prohibition on property owners evicting tenants.  The trial court issued an injunction but then stayed same pending action by appellate courts.  In vacating the lower court’s order, the Supreme Court wrote in part,

The case has been thoroughly briefed before us— twice. And careful review of that record makes clear that the applicants are virtually certain to succeed on the merits of their argument that the CDC has exceeded its authority. It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken. But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts.

Indeed it does.  The statute, quoted by the Court, gives the Surgeon General the power to make orders for the “inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated as to be sources of dangerous infection to human beings, and other measures, as in his judgment may be necessary.”  For the CDC to pretend that such language empowers it to prohibit evictions of tenants borders on the delusional.

And that’s the thread connecting not only these three somewhat random incidents, but much more of our public response to the threat of COVID-19.  Again and again, public officials happily assumed powers they’re not granted either by the Constitution or any statute.  Often against the strident advice of medical and epidemiological experts, measures of dubious efficacy were taken that had one thing in common – the fairly arbitrary exercise of governmental power over the rest of us.  That, plus public officials openly violating the very restrictions they themselves had put in place has led certain cynics to conclude that that was one of the points all along.

The current result is resistance to vaccination, to date the most effective method for fighting the virus.  Governmental overreach begat resistance to governmental authority.  That resistance now limits efforts to combat the virus.  Public officials might want to ponder that.


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