Amid the rapidly dropping rate of coronavirus infections in the US, the push to reopen the economy has begun picking up steam.
Attorney General Bill Barr stepped into the conversation during a Wednesday interview with Fox News, indicating that he’s concerned about the implications of extended “draconian” social distancing measures.
Protecting personal liberty
Barr was careful to agree that emergency lockdowns were warranted at the beginning of the crisis, but noted that when “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.”
“I’m very concerned about the slippery slope in terms of continuing encroachments on personal liberty. I do think during the emergency, appropriate, reasonable steps are fine.”
Barrs comments reflect a growing national concern about how far state and local governments will go to ensure compliance with stay-at-home mandates.
In California, one of the states first to launch the unprecedented social distancing measures, police officers have been recently handing out of citations for such activities as paddleboarding on the open ocean, watching the sunset, and having picnics near the beach.
Barr acknowledged that there are “certain emergencies where liberties have to be restricted,” such as war, but went on to say that “whatever steps we have to take must be balanced against the civil liberties of the American people, and cannot be used as an excuse for broad deprivations of liberty.”
Though concerns about the rising death toll from the virus in New York City remain at the forefront of the national coronavirus conversation, rumblings about reopening the economy — at least in a limited scope — have already begun amongst government leadership.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Thursday that he believes that the economy could be opened again as soon as May. Trump announced at the end of March that Social distancing guidelines would be extended through April 30th.
“I think as soon as the president feels comfortable with the medical issues, we are making everything necessary that American companies and American workers can be open for business and that they have the liquidity to operate their business in the interim,” Mnuchin told CNBC host Jim Cramer.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who appears to be calling the shots in regard to coronavirus policy, said during a CBS interview on Thursday that “if we do the things that we need to do to prevent the resurgence,” a normal summer “can be in the cards.”
This admission is a major turnaround from comments Fauci made just one week ago when he said during a podcast interview that “we’re not even at halftime” in the battle against the virus.