Social solidarity saves the day? The government has found ways to fail at every step of the response to the new coronavirus outbreak, but the American people are exhibiting commendable levels of calm, careful, and community-oriented action.
Businesses, nonprofit groups, churches, community leaders, and individuals have been voluntarily canceling plans, creating workplace workarounds, soliciting ways to help their neighbors, and practicing "social distancing" in the face of vast uncertainty about the true threat level faced or whether widespread testing for the virus (let alone a vaccine) will be ready anytime soon.
The now-constant churn of coronavirus updates—another new city with cases, another school system sending kids home, another state seeking federal help by declaring an emergency—can make even those who aren't prone to panic start stocking up on canned goods and wine. Even Disney parks are shutting their gates through the end of the month.
But a lot of what we're seeing and hearing about constitutes acts of social solidarity, as Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times suggested yesterday.
I imagine all the closures and cancellations give people a sense of ominousness. But it's really an amazing act of social solidarity: We're sacrificing so we can give nurses, doctors and hospitals a fighting chance. Start from there and hopefully we can figure out the rest.
— Matt Pearce ???? (@mattdpearce) March 12, 2020
The events put on hold, personal and business travel cancellations, employees and students sent to work and learn from home, museum and theater closings, action taken by sports leagues, and countless self quarantines… The people passing along practical tips to help neighbors who might be hit especially hard when public life slows down… Scientists from all spheres stepping in to help develop tests (and groups like the Gates Foundation to help make them more widely available)…. Even everyone stocking up on groceries and household items in order to stay home if they start coughing…
We are working on open source ventilators in order to have a fast and easy solution to be reproduced and assembled locally worldwide.
If you have any skills that you consider might help, join us @ https://t.co/nw526T4mgh#projectopenair please RT and share ???????? #TogetherWeRise
— Joao Nascimento (@jonisborn) March 11, 2020
Individuals, civic groups, businesses, and loose social networks are working in the spirit of charity, personal responsibility, and helping one another.
People are attempting to mitigate their own risk, sure, but it also goes beyond that. Even in populations not likely to be seriously affected by the illness, and even with warnings that most people will be exposed eventually and a majority infected, we're seeing people pretty cheerfully do what all the health experts have been saying: to slow, if we cannot stop, the spread of the contagion in order not to overwhelm health care and emergency services.
This is community leadership. One of the fanciest, most expensive restaurants in Seattle is changing it's model: Instead of sit-down fine dining it'll transition to a drive-thru burger joint to keep their staff employed and adjust to meet community needs. #WeGotThisSeattle https://t.co/uqNqToY6f3
— David Brunelle (@davidbrunelle) March 12, 2020
A model for volunteer efforts that can be replicated and improved by communities across US.
- Plot data on a Google map, so users can scan visually
- Tie in healthcare & med professionals to ensure safe practices
- Coordinate w/ local nursing homes, other high-need facilities https://t.co/iCHjRpQKAU
— Jacob Siegel (@Jacob__Siegel) March 13, 2020
There are literally 3 people on my metro train at 6 pm.
DC is certainly taking Coronavirus serious
— Dan King ???? (Matisse Thybulle Stan Account) (@Kinger_Liberty) March 12, 2020
Wow — dean of University of Washington medical school is asking qualified graduate students to pause their research and instead help run COVID-19 lab tests.
Voluntary until compensation structure can be determined pic.twitter.com/JlOH0SJSBR
— ian haydon (@ichaydon) March 12, 2020
We're also witnessing state and city governments grapple with this in ways that rely on relaxing their regular rules and letting everyone pitch in.
It could be like this always. https://t.co/9UtHlV16GL
— Samuel Hammond ???????? (@hamandcheese) March 12, 2020
So maybe we don't need an onerous licensing process at all? Is that what you're saying? That's probably what you're saying.
— Eric Boehm (@EricBoehm87) March 12, 2020
Unfortunately, some officials are taking advantage of the crisis to push essentially unrelated policies they've long desired. Others are operating under the idea that government can do whatever it wants in unusual times. In California, for instance, Gov. Gavin Newsom "released a sweeping executive order on Thursday that allows the state to commandeer hotels and medical facilities to treat coronavirus patients and permits government officials to hold teleconferences in private without violating open meeting laws," reports the Los Angeles Times.
And while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been correcting course on COVID-19 testing, we're still woefully behind.
Currently experts expect over 1 million deaths in the U.S. since the virus was not contained & we cannot even test for it.
This will be recorded as a major preventable public health disaster. I will try to relate what I learned from a long day of calls about what is happening.
— Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) March 13, 2020
Nothing will get back the time we've lost. But even if we can't count on officials to get things right, civil society has been lessening the impact of those follies.
This phenomenon is backed up by other research on times of disaster. A recent piece in The New York Times shows that "the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 surprised everyone by showing that natural disasters can bring out more kindness than selfishness"—and that this turned to be a typical social response.
"It turns out that unselfish behavior during a disaster is the rule rather than the exception," Boing Boing points out.
One of the things I hope people learn from #CoronaOutbreak is that you don't have to wait on the government to tell you to do things
You can as an individual, as a business, as a community handle things all on your own and usually better than the government can
— Jen Monroe ???????? ???? (@jenniferm_q) March 13, 2020
Chelsea Manning finally freed.
BREAKING: A federal judge has ordered the release of Chelsea Manning: "the court finds Ms. Manning's appearance before the Grand Jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose." pic.twitter.com/8krTFahWZM
— The Appeal (@theappeal) March 12, 2020
Congressional Democrats have released a coronavirus appropriations bill that contains some sensible measures—and a whole lot of extras. As Reason's Robby Soave noted yesterday, the measure would "establish free coronavirus testing; mandate private businesses provide additional paid sick leave; expand unemployment insurance eligibility; strengthen food security initiatives for senior citizens, children, pregnant women, and food banks; increase funding for Medicaid; and bolster unemployment benefits, among other provisions," to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. It would also make the mandated sick leave program permanent.
Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) weighs in:
Pelosi is making the same mistake as her predecessors Ryan and Boehner. Instead of allowing debate and amendment in the House, she privately negotiates with Mnuchin and then tells representatives to take it or leave it. Her approach weakens Congress and undermines representation. https://t.co/i9v2F3Jn50
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 13, 2020
U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. While viruses and elections have dominated the news, battles between U.S. and Iranian-backed forces in Iraq have been quietly escalating. The Pentagon says Kataib Hezbollah-linked facilities "across Iraq" were hit by U.S. airstrikes this morning, in retaliation for the Iran-linked group's killing of two U.S. and one British military member. "The aerial bombardment took place around 1:30 a.m., according to the Iraqi military. It was unclear whether any militia members were killed," reports The Washington Post.
- Donald Trump and Mike Pence have not been tested for the coronavirus, despite being in contact with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has contracted COVID-19.
- Bonnie Kristian lays out a libertarian response to the outbreak.
- Good news for New York Libertarians:
NY state politicians tried to strip the LP of its hard won "official" status - making it harder for us to get candidates on the ballot. A judge just stopped them. Expect more LP candidates on NY ballots in 2020, 2021 and beyond! https://t.co/qtw8tz3V6n
— Devin Balkind (@DevinBalkind) March 12, 2020
- In New York City, a new pop-up exhibit tells sex workers stories through a range of different media. More information here.
"What's so powerful about this show is that it really does authentically tell stories of current sex workers, of former sex workers, and it's a global perspective." - @daveentrentmann #sexworkiswork #decrimnow https://t.co/C2JzNslgCv
— Sex Workers' Pop-Up (@SexWorkersPopUp) March 9, 2020
- Sex work in a time of pandemic:
I wrote about how coronavirus has decimated the sex industry in Seattle and how workers are coping. https://t.co/oXDGP3A7tV
— Michael Hobbes (@RottenInDenmark) March 12, 2020
- Sen. Ben Sasse (R–Nebraska) wants Congress to investigate Pornhub.
- The Knight Foundation reports on rapid shifts in American perceptions of social media and digital tech companies.
- Peter Suderman and I talk with Libertarian.org podcasters about Westworld. (Season three premieres Sunday!)
- Former Reason editor Virginia Postrel's new book will be released in November.
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