The New York Times Recoils at the Predictable Consequences of the Mandatory COVID-19 Precautions It Supports

When mask-wearing and social distancing rules are legally enforceable, the potential for violence cannot be avoided.


"Of the 125 people arrested over offenses that law enforcement officials described as related to the coronavirus pandemic, 113 were black or Hispanic. Of the 374 summonses from March 16 to May 5, a vast majority—300—were given to black and Hispanic New Yorkers."

So begins a New York Times editorial that recoils at the predictable consequences of a policy that The New York Times supports. When the government orders people, under the threat of hefty fines, to stop working, stay home except for approved purposes, wear face masks in public, avoid "non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason," and keep their distance from each other, it charges police with enforcing those edicts. The resulting encounters may lead to criminal charges such as disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, and obstructing governmental administration. Given the long record of racially skewed law enforcement by the New York Police Department (NYPD), it is not at all surprising that the people who bear the brunt of mandatory social distancing are overwhelmingly black and Latino.

The Times does not like that result:

Videos of some of the arrests are hard to watch. In one posted to Facebook last week, a group of some six police officers are seen tackling a black woman in a subway station as her young child looks on. "She's got a baby with her!" a bystander shouts. Police officials told The Daily News the woman had refused to comply when officers directed her to put the mask she was wearing over her nose and mouth.

Contrast that with photographs across social media showing crowds of sun-seekers packed into parks in wealthy, whiter areas of the city, lounging undisturbed as police officers hand out masks….

Without a significant course correction, the [police] department's role in the pandemic may look more and more like stop-and-frisk, the policing tactic that led to the harassment of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, most of them black and Hispanic, while rarely touching white New Yorkers. [Mayor Bill] de Blasio has scoffed at the comparison, though it's not clear why.

The "course correction" suggested by the Times—a "public health corps" consisting of "specially trained civilians" who would "fan out across the neighborhoods and parks, helping with pedestrian traffic control and politely encouraging New Yorkers entering parks to protect one another by wearing masks and keeping their distance"—presents problems of its own. While those specially trained civilians presumably would be less likely than police officers to tackle, beat, and tase people for perceived violations of COVID-19 precautions, the potential for violence would still exist.

What would a member of this public health corps do if a parkgoer says he intends to keep his distance from other people but is not willing to wear a mask, since he (correctly) views the risk of virus transmission in an uncrowded, open-air environment as negligible? (Fun fact: In New York, a masked person who "congregates" in a public place with "other persons so masked" is guilty of loitering, a violation punishable by up to 15 days in jail.)

The Times says "the Police Department would play only a minimal role in this approach." But if cops serve as a backstop in responding to recalcitrant pedestrians, we are back to a situation in which social distancing rules are enforced by blatantly violating them through the physical contact and close proximity required to arrest, book, and jail people (which puts them in an environment where the risk of catching COVID-19 is especially high).

We also have to allow for the possibility that disputes between social distancing encouragers (who may not be as polite as they are supposed to be) and uncooperative targets (some of whom will be indignant and perhaps belligerent) will escalate into physical altercations. That danger is by no means theoretical.

The Times cannot have it both ways. If COVID-19 precautions are mandatory, they must at some point be legally enforced, with all the risks that entails, including violence and racial discrimination. The public health payoff might justify those risks in certain contexts—if a dense crowd happens to gather in Central Park, for instance, or if subway riders refuse to wear masks (although that was the situation in the video that the Times cites as evidence of overkill). But the risks cannot be eliminated if voluntary compliance is less than perfect, as it always will be.

Police officers charged with enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing requirements have to constantly weigh the costs of forcible intervention against the likely benefits. As the Times notes, it is not a task they welcome. "This situation is untenable," says Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association. "The NYPD needs to get cops out of the social distancing enforcement business altogether."

But that effectively means mandates will become recommendations. And while most people probably will follow those recommendations, out of concern for their own welfare if not out of consideration for others, some won't. The Times can't will away that tradeoff by pretending it does not exist.

NEXT: Epidemics on Campus, Real and Imagined

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  1. //The Times cannot have it both ways. If COVID-19 precautions are mandatory, they must at some point be legally enforced, with all the risks that entails, including violence and racial discrimination.//

    Sure they can. Authoritarians for “social justice” is a sensible stance to adopt when you assume the only people that will be beaten into compliance will be red state rubes clinging to their guns, bibles, and that silly and outdated Constitution.

    1. An assumption with no basis in fact.

      1. Sort of like the assumption that mandatory enforcement of arbitrary executive diktats would be a win for civil liberties, eh? Now that Shaquan, along with Cletus, is getting his skull bashed in, it’s obviously a problem.

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      2. You can’t be that naive. If they don’t want to enforce the rules evenly as they are being done now, the alternative is what exactly? Target a different demographic group to the exclusion of others.

    2. It’s not that the concept of government-imposed social distancing is flawed. It’s just that the wrong people were doing the imposition in those instances. We simply need to find the right people to bring the populace to heel — I mean, to convince them to engage in voluntary compliance with guidelines.

      1. What we need is: Top. Men.

        1. But the people in control seem a lot more like Bottom. Men.

    3. When does the media EVER take responsibility for the unintended (predictable as they may be) consequences of the policies they endorse? It only counts if it goes the way they thought it would.

      1. Incidentally, this Ronan Farrow brouhaha is going to be hilarious.
        The pot-kettling is going to be off the charts.
        Should be fun to see how the Russia-hoax-mongers come at him

        1. The idea that they are even remotely afraid of looking like hypocrites died with the Tara Reade story.

    4. Says the guy who supports the president taxing me by unconstitutional executive orders, that’s pretty rich.

      1. Says the guy who hasn’t said shit about excise taxes

        1. I am against sin taxes.

        2. So Nardz have you changed your mind on the subject?

          1. to GG: My argument stands as the following for unconstitutional nature of tariffs:

            Power to lay taxes rest in Congress per the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1). No Constitutional amendment has changed that the People vested that power into the hands of Congress not the executive. The president and congress have no authority to alter the constitution without passing an Amendment ergo any law or EO that says otherwise must be unconstitutional.

            1. Well have fun with that.
              I’m pro tariff.
              Wasn’t always, but reading articles and comments here has pushed me firmly in that direction.
              Maybe think about what that implies about yall’s arguments

            2. What the fuck are you talking about?

    5. Sometimes, people who are persistent on violating rules that are for their own protection as well as that of others have to be dealt with more harshly. That’s the bottom line. If it means that persistent scofflaws in this instant get arrested, jailed, fined, or even roughed up a little bit, so be it. Let these people learn their lesson. I don’t give a rat’s ass who they are, or about their ethnicity or color.

      1. At least you’re not ‘racially disparate’ in your love of authoritarianism, so I guess there’s that.

      2. Yeah, who cares if a few niggers get beat up as long as your feelings are protected from injury.

      3. “Sometimes, people who are persistent on violating rules that are for their own protection…”

        Up yours with a rusty, running chain saw, slaver.

    6. Once the Times figures out how to do so, it will explain to us how noncompliance is Donald Trump’s fault.

      1. It must be because of the big surge in Black support for Trump.

  2. I came across a clip from Crowder yesterday which I thought expressed the sentiment on this whole CV19 thing pretty well. Sure, initially when we didn’t have enough data, precautions were taken, people were concerned about the virus, but as data has come in, and the models turned out to be wrong, Ferguson turned out to be crazy-wrong, it’s pretty clear that the good nature of the American Public has been preyed upon.

    I don’t think I’ve heard a better breakdown of the current situation.

    1. Crowder has been presenting the argument quite well, in my opinion, the entire response has now become an exercise in perpetual goalpost shifting.

      From “two weeks to flatten the curve” to “things will never be normal again and everyone must stay in their homes until there is a cure” is such an absurd shift that you really have to be quite the moron not to notice the sleight of hand.

      And this really is a red/blue divide. Blue states are fucked. The lockdowns are never going to end, and they were never intended to be temporary.

      1. The thing I noted from the beginning of this was, as data comes in, governments should be able to adjust their precautionary measures in real time. They’re not. And they’re stubbornly refusing to. A real case of the cure being far worse than the disease.

        1. Sadly, this guy gets it

        2. Without question.

        3. I think that stubbornly refusing to is assuming that they aren’t living the power that have given themselves,

    2. Wrong, grandma baby killer. Some kid has it in Podunk, Iowa so therefore the rest of the country must be locked down in perpetuity. Now take your government pittance and stop complaining that ‘Fuddruckers’ is closed, NAZI!

  3. If the Times really believed the social distancing/mask-wearing rules were necessary to stop the spread of a killer virus, it would be glad that the police were trying so hard to protect minority communities, and would complain (or maybe approve) that the police didn’t seem to care about white people infecting each other.

    1. Bingo. But they’re so caught up in disparate analysis that this conclusion escapes them.

  4. Voluntary cooperation is fine as long as everybody cooperates with the mandatory volunteering.

  5. The Times likes the idea that the government has the authority to beat you to death for whatever reason it came up with that day, it just doesn’t like it when people see what that actually looks like.

    They’d really prefer it if we all just voluntarily followed the orders our betters gave us, otherwise we force our betters to beat us into submission. It really hurts our betters more than it hurts us when this kind of thing happens.

    1. This can’t be stated enough. It’s the stupid dichotomy that the Times editorial position has found itself in. Stop and frisk implemented on the basis of gun control. YAY! Stop and frisk resulting in minorities being disproportionately hassled and arrested. Boo!

    2. They’d really prefer it if we all just voluntarily followed the orders our betters gave us, otherwise we force our betters to beat us into submission.

      We make them beat us by making them angry when they don’t get what they want. Oh, and walk on eggshells in case you say the wrong thing.

      These fuckers seriously want a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with the rest of us.

      1. Ain’t no life like being a battered wife.

      2. That’s the inevitable result of catering to narcissists.

    3. The Time just doesn’t like it because the wrong people are being targets. If the cops were to ONLY abuse white men who voted for Trump, they’d be OK with it.

  6. “”the [police] department’s role in the pandemic may look more and more like stop-and-frisk, the policing tactic that led to the harassment of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, “”

    Well we are all being treated like we are guilty (infected). Forcing non-infected people to wear makes is harassing the innocent.

  7. This is the left in a nutshell. They simply do not care about anyone who doesn’t toe the moving line. It’s like dealing with uncompromising robots.

    If you keep voting for these schmucks this is what you’re gonna get.

  8. I still define progressivism as using the coercive power of the state to force people to make sacrifices for what they think is the greater good. I’ve often wondered if they completely oblivious to what it means to use the coercive power of the state or whether they’re faking it. Assuming they’re faking it is giving them the benefit of the doubt. If they’re really so pathetic that they don’t realize that using the government to make people do things against their will involves sending guys with guns to drag people away and lock them in cages, I don’t know how to persuade them to stop doing that. It’s like politely asking someone to stop stabbing you in the chest.

    1. I usually assume that the progressives in power running things are faking it. The Clintons and the Schumers/Pelosis of the world. The average progressive voter doesn’t see past their stated intent. They don’t measure anything by what actually happens, just the things that politicians say in their stump speeches and when they’re in softball interviews on corporate news networks.

      Republicans used to do the same thing with their whole “fiscal conservative” schtick. For both parties, the masks have almost completely come off. Counter-intuatively, while we all realize more and more that these people are all dishonest grifters, we are constantly giving them more and more power and control to keep it from the other side. It’s become a very lose-lose situation.

    2. I don’t believe for a second that the leftards give a shit about the greater good. What they want is free shit, and to see people they don’t like get persecuted by the government.


  9. They only feign outrage for their own gain. They’re clearly just continuing to push their agenda. “Lockdowns are racist!”

  10. “public health corps” consisting of “specially trained civilians”
    No. Just no. Do not create a new permanent TSA of pandemic police

    1. But the TSA has been so effective at stopping terrorism! How could you disagree with the new Public Health Administration? They can employ hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of enforcers to patrol America’s streets and ensure that no one is doing anything unhealthy. You don’t want people to get sick, do you? Also, just think of how many jobs will be created!

      1. And so we can recognize them and offer them our thanks they could wear brown shirts with contrasting armbands

  11. 1. “If you are sick,” the CDC says, “you should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.” But “if you are NOT sick,” it adds, “you do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask).
    2. A randomized trial of face masks involving about 7,700 hajj participants in Mecca had less promising results. At the end of the study, which was reported in The Lancet last year, the subjects who received masks—most of whom used them intermittently or not at all—were just as likely to have viral respiratory infections as those who did not. Last year was 2019; most people in C19 panicked 2020 wear their mask intermittently, or just plain wrong like over their mouth only, or hanging around their neck.
    3. Why masks AND anti-social distancing? Still looking for a no bullshit answer to that one.

    1. Could it be that the masks work as intended, but only when used as intended and most people don’t use them as intended?

      So we all really need mandatory classes on how to wear masks (after fashioning them ourselves from old clothes). Then we’ll all be ok.

      1. The masks don’t work. If you are coughing/sneezing or are near someone who is coughing/sneezing then wearing a mask is effective at blocking coughs and sneezes. If you are performing surgery then wearing a mask is effective at blocking coughs and sneezes into the open body cavities of your patients.

        If you are going to Walmart then your fucking bandana is 100% useless. It is a magic talisman of virus repelling and nothing more.

    2. 3. The effects of stacked mitigations are cumulative. A properly positioned mask reduces the spread of your sneeze or cough by a factor, and distancing reduces it by a (different) factor. The two together reduce the exposure of a second person to your possibly virus laden output by the product of the two factors. If the second person also is using a correctly positioned mask, it will reduce his or her exposure by a third factor (although a fairly small one).

      1. I think that it would be preferable if folks would just voluntarily wear masks in public businesses where employees of the business are being constantly exposed. It is the polite thing to do, imo. I suppose one could argue that those exposed employees should not work there if they don’t want to get infected. Easier said than done though when they risk unemployment as a result.

        It might also get the Feds off our back sooner to just do a few simple things to attenuate the spread while having a fully opened economy. Though I would not mandate it.

    3. A randomized trial of face masks involving about 7,700 hajj participants in Mecca

      These are people who wipe their ass with their hand

  12. The braintrust at The Times and Vox based ACA healthcare subsidies on median income. I’m sure they’ll come up with mandates and bans based on median melanin levels, problem solved!

  13. In my dreams, the NYPD SWAT kicks in the doors to the NYT and beats down everyone in sight, asset forfeitures the presses and the computers, and books them all for loitering.

  14. Arresting someone for ‘unlawful assembly’ in the absence of violent action by the persons being arrested is unconstitutional. The First Amendment guarantees the right to assemble peaceably. The word ‘except’ is not in it. If the people are peaceful and on private property, they have a right to assemble. State laws, regardless of how well intentioned they may be, do not supersede the US Constitution.

  15. Like everything else in the world of liberalism, it’s good intentions that count. If they think they had good intentions, they can feel good about themselves and consider themselves more virtuous than the rest of us. Unintended consequences? Simply necessary collateral damage. If there wasn’t a racial angle, the Times wouldn’t even be sweating it.

    The NYPD should forget this ticky-tack stuff anyway and get busy tracking down all the criminals the genius DeBlasio released.

  16. “This situation is untenable,” says Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association. “The NYPD needs to get cops out of the social distancing enforcement business altogether.”

    If the problem is indeed, as the NYT claims, racist cops, then the problem surely is getting rid of racist cops.

  17. Of course the assumption by the Times, implicitly endorsed by Reason, that racial group overrepresentation in law enforcement actions implies police bigotry is, at best, a hypothesis in need of evidence. There are numerous possible reasons for that such overrepresentation might occur; one is bias, and another is that members of different groups may sometimes behave differently in ways relevent to law enforcement.

    1. When you have over 90% enforcement on two groups that make up 53% of the population? When you have a long history of racially biased enforcement? There are also large groups of people that were clearly visible on news reports that were neither arrested or ticketed.

      I’m sorry, but NYPD has lost the assumption of innocence on this one. Everyone knows this. The fact that the black community disrespects and fears the police (not without reason) does make matters worse, but who can blame them?

    2. I’m too lazy right now to look it back up, but I recall reading a few years back about a study on searches of cars after a traffic stop. IIRC, this was in Florida.

      Cars with black drivers were twice as likely as cars driven by white motorists to get searched. However, and this is the interesting part, once a search was started, they were twice as likely to find contraband in the cars of white drivers.

  18. Anyone who questions the Lockdown is a serial killer. I’m no lawyer but I’m pretty sure that’s how the law works!

  19. The BAN IT committee never seems to put two and two together to figure that every regulation is ultimately backed by a cop’s nightstick and gun. You just mandate something and it happens: that’s their limited thinking.

    1. When national prohibition made beer the old crack, cops immediately began killing Americans, who proceeded to give as good as they got amid the crashing economy. Nullification replaced enforcement in 1923 and the economy revived. But since “the” law was on the side of terrified eugenicists, they ramped up coercion in 1929 until by Feb 1933 every bank was closed. The real problem, germ labs in Communist China, these muggers struggle to ignore.

  20. If you need a corp of polite attendants to gently nudge people into submission instead of police tactics perhaps you’ve already gone way overboard in trying to micromanage outcomes. Marginal results are the best you’re going to get. Any attempt beyond that is just an invitation for events like this. Let’s face it. This is the only event that’s happening; people incarcerated for not wearing a mask with 10% efficacy.

  21. When you illegally make formerly legal activity illegal it increases the amount of people getting locked up for illegal activity? Whoddathunkit?

  22. If people who don’t wear masks are grandma killers, then they need should be dragged away from the site and taken to jail. If the perp was infected, he or she could infect dozens around him with a single sneeze.

    Of course the very notion is ridiculous, and even some sheriffs recognize it. The left championed a response to a pandemic that mandated unquestioning participation by the masses, and officers of the law would have to shut down any violators for the good of the public.

    Why do they create a crisis all on their own, and then demand nuance when it comes to bite them in them in the ass?

  23. usd55 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids. Heres where I went………..

  24. 113 arrests and 300 citations in a city of 8,000,000 people? Who cares?!

    Besides, you deserve to get your ass kicked for walking around on public without a mask.

    1. But… but… racial disparities!

  25. “Of the 125 people arrested over offenses that law enforcement officials described as related to the coronavirus pandemic, 113 were black or Hispanic. Of the 374 summonses from March 16 to May 5, a vast majority—300—were given to black and Hispanic New Yorkers.”

    As Democrats have explained time and time again: COVID-19 reveals the massive institutionalized racism in our society. Why aren’t you listening?

  26. That’s just for citizens. For illegals, the usual sanctuary status applies– they are free to gather at will.

  27. Same as the flu epidemic in november 1918, when mugging people for not wearing masks was deterred only by free access to personal handguns.

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