Attorney General William Barr said in a Wednesday Fox News interview that he was “very concerned” about the ways people’s personal liberties were being restricted during the coronavirus outbreak and resulting government shutdowns.
Barr said that the situation in the U.S. was “akin to wartime” and that the government was allowed to “impose certain limitations” because of the circumstances, the Hill reported.
At the same time, “I’m very concerned about the slippery slope in terms of continuing encroachments on personal liberty,” he said. “I do think during the emergency, appropriate, reasonable steps are fine.”
‘Draconian’ measures should be re-evaluated
Barr said that “draconian” measures now in place to slow the spread of the virus should be re-evaluated by May and that he thought some of them could begin to be relaxed, according to the Hill. He said he hoped the government would look very carefully into whether alternative measures to stay-at-home orders could protect people against the coronavirus.
“I think, you know, when this — when this period of time is — at the end of April expires, I think we have to allow people to adapt more than we have and not just tell people to go home and hide under the bed, but allow them to use other ways — social distancing and other means — to protect themselves,” he said.
Most of the country is under stay-at-home orders that don’t allow them to go out except to seek necessary care, care for others, work essential jobs, and grocery shop. Non-essential businesses are shut down and millions are out of work until the orders are lifted.
The most common reason given for the strict measures has been the attempt to avoid overwhelming hospital systems with too many critically ill patients at one time, but hospitalizations have been fewer than expected in nearly all areas of the country.
New York City, which has 40% of the total coronavirus cases in the U.S. and is considered the epicenter, has seen a rapid decrease in hospitalizations over the last week. On April 2 there were 1,400 new hospitalizations, which dropped to about 550 around the 4th and only 200 on the 8th.
Deaths have still been slowly rising in New York, but likely lag behind new cases and hospitalizations by one to two weeks. Nationally, deaths spiked to nearly 2,000 on April 7 but then dropped slightly.
It is the new hospitalization numbers that may hold the key to ending stay-at-home orders. If few people are sick enough from coronavirus to enter hospitals, it may be time to open up the country while continuing social distancing and protective measures for the elderly and at-risk populations.
It’s important not to keep the country shut down when the risks drop precipitously because there are also great risks in artificially shutting down large parts of our national economy.
Sharp increases in depression, anxiety and suicides, poverty, and other diseases just as dangerous as coronavirus may in the end eclipse the risks of coronavirus if ruling class elites are too afraid to allow people to get back to their lives.