When legislators at the federal and state levels abandoned their posts and evacuated to their homes to escape COVID-19, governors and mayors filled the power vacuum with proclamations and executive orders to fight the current coronavirus outbreak, all in the name of public health. 

In the case of the plague visited on the world from China, the initial estimates of death and destruction from the virus attack seem to provide enough justification to impose rigid rules such as closing down “non-essential” industries and setting “socialdistancing” standards, requirements for masks, sanitizers and other accouterments for the public at large.

The model-driven forecasts proved as wrong as the “Population Bomb” of the 1970s and the predicted collapse of the world order from the turn of the century Y2K fiasco. Instead of “modeled” 2,200,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States, the actual number (while not final at press time) will likely be well under 100,000—a terrible figure—but a mere five percent of the “model” estimate.

Now the public, divided on the question of the actual severity of the disease, is getting restive. Most of the problem is the economic crisis. The $1200 checks sent to most adults are gone, mainly spent to pay for food, shelter and credit card bills. People are worried about from whence their next cash infusion will come. They also rightly worry whether they will have a job to return to when the dust of history settles on this sorry chapter. 

Much of what governors and mayors ordered was, temporarily, advisable and should have been done. There is, however, a world of difference between our government encouraging us to take what they consider to be wise action and throwing us in jail or fining us if we don’t. 

A free society features a government that encourages its citizens to eat healthily and exercise. Atotalitarian one jails people for eating the wrong foods. Afree community features a government that pulls out all the stops to encourage its citizens to take the extraordinary measure of not leaving their house for weeks on end during an infectious disease outbreak. Atotalitarian one threatens citizens with jail if they do not.

One other point about governors and mayors. One measure they should be judged by is the level of preparation and readiness they sponsor before the wolf comes knocking at the door. We should all remember and bless Jerry Brown for his insistence in building a $22 billion state rainy day fund.

By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman email: [email protected]