Attorney General William Barr has been increasingly critical of extended and draconian lockdowns across the nation in recent days.
Though he has previously not made a definitive statement against the measures in the past, Barr struck in full force against the orders on Friday, tweeting that “It is time to start rolling back some of these restrictions in an orderly and sensible way.”
Barr makes it official
Amid the increasing friction between citizens and state leaders, Barr tacitly voiced his support for those protesting overly strict social distancing orders.
“The Bill of Rights doesn’t go away during a crisis like this, but what it does do is it requires the government to justify any restrictions as truly necessary and ensure there are not other ways of addressing the government’s interests that are less burdensome on our rights,” Barr said.
Barr clarified that he believes stay-at-home orders were certainly justified at the outset of the pandemic because COVID-19 “was very contagious and we didn’t want it to overwhelm our health care system.”
However, as the curve flattens — especially in some areas of the nation –, Barr is no longer on the side of extended suppression of social expression. Barr also indicated that he would support legal action against government overreach on Monday, saying that he has ordered all US attorneys to “be on the lookout” for state-issued directives that would violate the Bill of Rights.
While some states have made meaningful moves towards reopening their economies and relaxing stay-at-home orders based on new federal guidelines, some governors have clamped down on their states more than ever.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered Orange County — one of the largest and most populous counties in the state — to close down their beaches on Friday in response to images of beachgoers that appeared to be violating social distancing rules.
Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill slammed Newsom’s decision, saying that the order was given “not because of data, but because of politics.”
“In our local hospital, we have 475 beds,” O’Neill explained. “They have never treated more than 25 people at any given time, and yesterday they had nine people that they were treating, and only one percent of their ventilators were being used.”
In New Mexico, Governor Lujan Grisham took the unprecedented action of invoking the state’s Riot Control Act on Friday to close down all roads leading to and from the city of Gallup, a city of 70,000.
Mayor Jack McKinney requested the action based on what he called a “crisis of the highest order.” McKinley County, where Gallup is located, has 1,027 confirmed coronavirus cases and 19 deaths from COVID-19.