"Smart Quarantine" and Rights of Family Unity

Would the state have a compelling interest to forcibly separate families to flatten the curve?


To date, state and local governments have enforced quarantine orders to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. And, for the most part, courts have upheld these orders, even when they conflict with enumerated constitutional rights, including the right of assembly, the right of free exercise, and the right to keep and bear arms. There is another Supreme-Court-recognized right that could come into conflict with a quarantine order: the right of family unity. Could the government forcibly separate families to prevent the spread of Corona?

The New York Times published an op-ed urging the United States to adopt such a "smart quarantine." Here is an excerpt:

There are three main challenges to building a smart quarantine system in the United States. First, we must vastly increase our capacity for testing and tracing contacts.

Second, we must create — and at times mandate — humane quarantine processes. With considerable success, China, South Korea and Singapore have tested far more of their populations and concurrently mandated tiered isolation and quarantine.

Third, American families will be asked to endure separations that are more difficult than what many have currently experienced. Family units are the hotbed of viral spread, and doing the right thing for your family simultaneously does the right thing for the community.

If we inspire, inform and mobilize the public, we can accomplish the needed separations mainly voluntarily and always in a way that respects civil liberties to the highest degree possible while protecting the public's health (and the nation's economy).

In a smart quarantine, anyone in a family who is not well — and if you're sheltering in place, whomever you are with is considered "family" — must get tested and be separated from the family until results return. While awaiting results, the separated family member can move into temporary accommodations overseen by medical professionals and be tested.

Those that test negative remain in quarantine in their accommodations, and if they test negative again at 14 days, they can return home, where they must continue to shelter in place. Those that test positive leave their temporary accommodations and enter a more formal Covid-19 recovery facility. Most of these people will recover and will be sent home in about two weeks after testing negative at least twice. People who get worse will be sent to an acute care facility.

Would the state have a compelling enough interest to separate parents from their young children for weeks at a time? How would this order fare under Moore v. City of East Cleveland?

I also doubt this policy would be particularly effective. Brian Leiter explains why:

If you're going to forcibly separate people from their family because they are ill, until tests clear them, then people simply won't disclose their conditon to the authorities, which will make things worse, not better.   This is a case where the public health experts don't seem to be thinking about the unintended consequences of their proposal given how people will, quite predictably, respond.  What am I missing?

NEXT: The Semifinal Round of the OT 2019 Harlan Institute-ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition

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  1. Ah, the old “compelling interest” clause of the constitution.

    1. “Ah, the old “compelling interest” clause of the constitution.”

      At least the phrase means something during a pandemic. Normally “compelling interest” means that there is an unconstitutional law that the judge likes.

    2. It’s the same people who believe the General Welfare Clause Grant’s the people in government the right to do anything they want so long as they say it’s for the general welfare.

      1. Nobody believes that in the manner you state it.

        Now, what I expect you mean is that the general welfare clause permits government spending with a great deal of judicial deference as to whether it promotes the general welfare, subject only to substantive limitations such as those in the Bill of Rights. But that, of course, is what just about every constitutional lawyer, law professor, and judge believes. In other words, it’s the law.

        1. “a great deal of deference” — yes, that’s what he said. He just didn’t gussy it up in “rational basis” nonsense.

          1. Same didn’t mention just spending, though. That’s where he’s wrong.

        2. The fact that you say “just about” and also list “constitutional lawyer, law professor and judge” indicates that you acknowledge the possibility that such con lawyers, professors and judges might exist, and those worthies are the most likely to believe that. You must hang with a much more Constitution-oriented crowd than Sam or I do. There are certainly people not so well-versed in the Constitution that definitely *do* believe just the way Sam says they do. I’ve run into quite a few people who think that the general welfare clause does give that power to the government. I’d be willing to bet that there are a number of elected representatives at the local, state, and federal level that do, as well.

          1. Just like there are Austrian economists, homeopathic doctors, and astrologers, there are constitutional law professors who think whatever their ideosyncratic beliefs are constitute the “law”.

            They aren’t relevant though.

        3. Why would it only be subject to limitations that were in the Bill of Rights if the Constitution is about enumerated powers and was ratified before there were any Bill of Rights. How was the general welfare clause understood at that time? Why has that changed?

          1. Providing for the general welfare is an enumerated power And constitutional floor. The only limitations on it the Constitution’s ceilings.

            1. What power does it enumerate? The way it was explained to the people at the ratifying convention was that it was not an enumerated power but instead was a limit on the actual enumerated powers in the Constitution.

              1. The power it enumerates is to tax and spend money for the general welfare. There was no ratifying convention for the Constitution. There was a constitutional convention, but nothing was ratified there. If somebody said at the constitutional convention that it was a limitation and not an enumerated power, that wasn’t binding on the ratifiers. In any event, it would have been pretty foolish for any ratifier to believe that a list of enumerated powers had a secret limitation in it, right there at the front.

                You’re free to argue that the spending power should be narrowly construed or deployed. But that doesn’t have to be an argument involving SCOTUS. Because even if you weren’t wrong about pretty much everything you just said, there’s certainly no evidence that the ratifiers—or the constitutional convention signers for that matter—intended SCOTUS to police general welfare.

          2. It would be subject to the limitations in the Bill of Rights because amendments to the Constitution can and do supersede portions of the Constitution. So any portion of the Constitution that is in conflict with a later amendment is null and void.

            The general welfare clause was understood at the time to be a portion of the preamble, which was understood to be a statement of intent, rather than a grant of power. The purpose of the preamble was to explain *why* the Constitution exists, rather than *how* it sets things up. It has changed because government is attractive to two types of people – those who want power, who will gather more to themselves whenever possible, and those who want the government to be useful and helpful to people, who see additional government power as a way to do that.

            1. General Welfare appears twice, WCB. Once in the preamble, but also once in the Taxing and Spending Clause.

              That has not changed since the Founders, particularly Jefferson and Hamilton. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_welfare_clause#United_States

        4. “No no Sam, you’re such an idiot, you’re so wrong, they can’t do *anything* they want, they can just spend on anything they they want so long as they say it’s for the general welfare!”


          What was even the point of the enumerated powers if the preceding paragraph granted the people in government such broad discretion?

          1. Because the broad discretion on how to spend money was one of the things the ratifiers wanted to preserve from the AOC. (They added broad taxing powers.)

        5. You are correct that it does permit spending in that manner. He didn’t say spending, though, and you are incorrect to say that no one believes in what he did say, because lots of activists and politicians do, in fact, believe that. You can pretend all you want, but it doesn’t make it reality.

  2. Let’s start with how many of the people left behind you would kill doing this — it’s not coincidence that many long-married elderly couples die within months of each others, and that those who don’t have a significant bond with someone else, usually an adult child.

    So in addition to no one being willing to be tested (or see a medical professional for *anything* — ever again), you are going to be killing the people whom the state graciously permits to remain in their own abodes.

    An underlying issue here is the expansion of the HUD public housing mentality into the private sector. There is a standard of living of having one’s own bedroom and own bathroom that people have worked hard to attain — which is arbitrarily being taken away from them. It’s the same thing as that an elderly couple who have paid off their mortgage ought not be “permitted” to remain in their large house because a family with small children could use it — that the elderly couple ought to be pushed into a one-bedroom apartment elsewhere.

    Countries such as China, South Korea and Singapore have very different values than ours — and that too needs to be remembered. As no one would tolerate our taking their approach to K-12 education, why should we not inherently be questioning it here?

  3. The other issue here is the question of does the government relate to the family unit, or to the individual?

  4. Does the government have the power? I dunno.

    Is it a viable policy? It is not.

    Does the second truth make the first question more of an attack on other govermental powers it is using here? It sure does! I already see it in the comments.

    I don’t know if it’s on purpose, but this sure does seem like an underhanded attack on stuff we’ve already hashed out.

    1. I don’t know if it’s on purpose, but this sure does seem like an underhanded attack on stuff we’ve already hashed out.

      If it’s already all “hashed out,” then what’s your theory on why the NYT chose to grace its pages with a full-blown op-ed full of chilling, Orwellian language like:

      Family units are the hotbed of viral spread, and doing the right thing for your family simultaneously does the right thing for the community.

      * * *

      In a smart quarantine, anyone in a family who is not well — and if you’re sheltering in place, whomever you are with is considered “family” — must get tested and be separated from the family until results return. While awaiting results, the separated family member can move into temporary accommodations overseen by medical professionals and be tested.

      Those that test negative remain in quarantine in their accommodations, and if they test negative again at 14 days, they can return home, where they must continue to shelter in place. Those that test positive leave their temporary accommodations and enter a more formal Covid-19 recovery facility.

      There are a very small number of actors that have been making a progressive series of heretofore largely unfathomable decisions on behalf of large swaths of the population, all in the name of the common good. Confidence that all of a sudden THIS is the step they won’t or somehow can’t take is, in my view, highly misplaced. The frog boils one degree at a time.

      1. Agreed — and most relevant is what we did NOT do 35 years ago with the AIDS pandemic.

        Back then, AIDS was inevitably fatal, and it was being spread by gay male sex. Cuba quarantined all the gay males, sent them to sanitariums that were either well-appointed or not depending on which version you read, but still were locked cages.

        We didn’t do that. We didn’t do that then, and we shouldn’t do this now — particularly since the Wuhan Virus is *NOT* inevitably fatal (as AIDS was, circa 1984), and our “experts” don’t yet even know what percentage of the population has already had and recovered from the Wuhan Virus.

        The “experts” believe that 100% will present to the hospital, but imagine if only 10% did — all of the scary statistics would have to have the decimal point moved one place to the left — a 3% mortality rate becomes 0.3%, 10,000 people on ventilators becomes only 1000 people on ventilators, etc….

        1. Here’s the thing about HIV. Because it occurred (at first) within a population that was enormously politically unpopular, it was incredibly important to stand up against that. We had a congressman out here, Bill Dannemeyer, who was literally going on television every night calling for gays to be isolated into leper colonies.

          But it’s worth nothing that with respect to other sexually transmitted diseases, whose effects were not concentrated on an incredibly politically vunlernable, historically oppressed population, we have approved contact tracing and even isolation at times.

          And similarly, we have no reason to worry that people will be unable to resist unfair restrictions that go too far- because they are hitting the bulk of Americans, not some oppressed and demonized subgroup.

          I’m not going to defend everything that happened in the AIDS epidemic, by the way. The delay in closing or regulating gay bathhouses, in particular, was far, far less justifiable than the pushback against contact tracing and isolation. Those facilities were full of anonymous unprotected sex between strangers and really could not stay open. And that does show that the commendable impulse to protect a demonized minority can go too far sometimes.

          But in general, you can’t compare pandemics that have a broad effect on the population to epidemics that are concentrated among an unpopular minority. The responses have to be different.

          1. The CDC reported that in 2009 that male-to-male sex (MSM) accounted for 61% of all new HIV infections in the U.S. and that those who had a history of recreational drug injection accounted for an additional 3% of new infections. Among the approximately 784,701 people living with an HIV diagnosis, 396,810 (51%) were MSM. About 48% of MSM living with an HIV diagnosis were white, 30% were black, and 19% were Hispanic or Latino. Although the majority of MSM are white, non-whites accounted for 54% of new infections HIV related MSM infections in 2008.[8]
            A certain demographic still has not learned the benefits of social distancing. One of the paradoxes of HIV treatment, as it became available in the ’90s, was that total HIV deaths increases as a result of treatment that kept HIV positive people alive longer, but had little to no effect on the ability to transmit HIV. The greater good (fewer total HIV deaths) would have been no treatment, whereas the greater individual good (as viewed solely from the patient’s perspective) was maximal treatment, even if that meant that individual’s benefit meant, on average, infecting enough people to sustain epidemic growth of the disease.

            1. It’s true that HIV still spreads. And yes, it still spreads among MSM. But it’s also contained- it is no longer a full fledged epidemic, and the treatments have turned it from a death sentence into a treatable condition.

              So there’s really no reason to do anything other than what we are doing (which includes, by the way, a huge amount of education in the gay community about safer sex).

              1. You missed my point — there were things that Americans weren’t willing to do, even to an unpopular minority.

  5. “With considerable success, China”

    Quite a weak foundation to start to build an argument.

    The ChiCom stats are bogus from start to finish.

    For instance, March 1 they hit 80,000, took 19 days to hit 81,000. Doesn’t take a stats or medical genius to realize you don’t level of like that.

    1. Imagine if we addressed our racial issues with minorities in our cities the way the ChiComs are addressing their problems with their racial minorities, the Uighur Muslims.

      I can’t even get my head around the consequences of us doing this….

    2. Bob, an interesting article about the ChiCom stats:

      I don’t want to live in the People’s Republic of China….

      1. Well, then, pay attention. You are getting a free 30 day trial.

    3. “For instance, March 1 they hit 80,000, took 19 days to hit 81,000. Doesn’t take a stats or medical genius to realize you don’t level of like that.”

      I’m pretty sure the CCP has enough soldiers and bullets to make those numbers accurate. And they wouldn’t even have died (directly) of their virus.

      1. And it would account for the continuing high demand for crematoriums and urns…

  6. If you’re going to forcibly separate people from their family because they are ill, until tests clear them, then people simply won’t disclose their condition to the authorities, which will make things worse, not better.

    That is hard to imagine. What kind of people would behave that way, while putting family members in deadly danger?

    1. What type of people will let the government take their children away?

      1. Were the Brits, putting their children in the countryside during the Blitz, doing it via gov’t fiat, or was it voluntary?

        1. Evacuation was voluntary during the Blitz.

          Listen, context is everything here. There are reasons to evacuate your kids. But when the government says “we’re gonna take your kids, by fiat”…There’s a problem.

        2. The ‘Keep calm and carry on’ Brits didn’t need the government to make determination of risk and actions.

      2. Armchair, you mean like taking them away to give them medical care? Nobody wants their children, “taken away.” Lots of people, I hope most people, want their children taken to medical care when they need it.

        1. There’s a whole lot of context in there you’re missing. About three tons worth.

          99% of the time, if a child is visibly sick, the parents want the child treated. But the parents go with their children. Because they’re parents. And they care about their children.

          What’s being implied by the above situation is a child being sick (or the parent being sick), and the children forcibly separated from the parents. Which given the current situation, current disease, and current climate, most parents would find a massively unacceptable.

          Imagine. A nonsymptomatic child, pulled away from their parents, and put in “quarantine” for 14 days with strangers…most parents wouldn’t put up with it. Hell, a mildly symptomatic child…the parents would STILL want to take care of the child, and be with them, damn the risk. Because that’s what parents do. They give for their child. They risk for their child.

          1. Armchair, a large part of the difference in views between you and me seems to be in our respective assessments of the pandemic. You seem to regard it as almost trivial. I see it differently.

            Two weeks ago, I had occasion to visit Massachusetts General Hospital, and talk for several hours with various medical staff. People now die every day at Mass General, from coronavirus. The effects of the pandemic have made a striking impression. Doctors and nurses tell me they have never seen anything like it. They are unmistakably frightened, and shaken. They confess it. And these are some of the most insightful and experienced medical people on the planet. Among them are many who have served time in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the American tropics.

            Talking to them, I got the impression it is not so much the excess deaths—death being, after all, a pretty routine part of their work. It may be the subtle contagiousness. They watched that contagiousness rapidly infect more than 150 medical personnel in a 3-hospital network, right at the outset—more than 50 at Mass General itself. I think that is what took them by surprise, what they were not prepared to see. I concluded they fear they are fighting a threat more volatile than you have been told about.

            1. Stephen,

              You clearly do not understand how extreme the position is that you are proposing, in the context of the current epidemic. The current epidemic is bad. But it is not so bad that we need to forcibly seize parents young children, and separate them for weeks from their parents. What you are proposing is heartless and severely psychologically damaging, and entirely inappropriate to the current situation.

              Let’s see if we can put this in a context you may understand, so you can gather how extremely heartless and extreme what you are proposing is. Because you clearly don’t understand it from a parent’s perspective or a child’s perspective.

              The AIDS epidemic has killed over 600,000 people in the United States. We need to limit the spread of AIDS. AIDS is transmitted by sexual activity (among other methods). So, we will simply surgically remove the penis of every man who tests positive for AIDS, to limit the spread of the disease. Such an action will be quite effective in limiting the spread of the disease.

              Is this extreme? Yes. Absurd? Yes. Evil? Absolutely. Does it fill you with horror? I hope so. Would I ever actually propose or support any thing like this? Absolutely not. But this is the emotional and logical equivalent of forcibly seizing people’s children and quarantining them, during the current COVID epidemic to “limit” the spread of the disease.

              I hope you would react with horror at this concept of removing people’s genitalia in order to limit the spread of a lethal disease, and you can empathize with and transfer that sense of horror to how parents would feel if their children were to be seized and taken from them with the current crisis. Perhaps you don’t respond with horror at this idea. Or you can’t transfer it over. But that is logically and emotionally the equivalent.

              1. But this is the emotional and logical equivalent of forcibly seizing people’s children and quarantining them, during the current COVID epidemic to “limit” the spread of the disease.

                I have an inkling that something is amiss. Do you understand that this “seizing” of children you keep talking about is not intended to be permanent, or even lengthy? When you analogize to cutting off a penis, it suggests you don’t know that. Those alternatives are not even close to being, “logically and emotionally,” equivalents. To assert that they are equivalent—if you know we are talking about a quarantine interval of weeks to maybe a month—is incomprehensible except in terms of mental pathology. I have to conclude you have misunderstood the quarantine proposals, and take them to be little short of permanent kidnapping.

              2. Armchair, oh, I overlooked that you said, “for weeks,” right in your first paragraph. My apology for the oversight.

                I guess my comment above does not apply, except insofar as the suggestion of unstable mental process gains credence. No, a weeks-long quarantine in the United States of America would not in any way shape or form be an equivalent to cutting off a penis. I am astonished I had to write that. Perhaps you are under stress. Many of us are. Best of luck, and best of health to you.

                1. For Stephen,

                  I can only assume that you do not really have a grasp on how bad this proposal really is. Forcibly seizing young, asymptomatic children from their parents, and throwing them in solo quarantine for weeks away from their parents. That you truly see nothing wrong with the proposal, in the current context, with the current disease and relative age-related mortality rates. We’ve tried to explain it to you. We’ve tried to explain the horror. We’ve tried to use analogies to other situations that would limit the spread of a far more deadly disease, but also be unacceptable. We’ve tried to explain it from people on both sides of the sides of the political spectrum. You have failed to understand or have any inkling of empathy for what is being proposed, writing any views not your own as “mental illness”.

                  To the forum as a whole.

                  People like Stephen are why we have the 2nd Amendment, which needs to stay protected during this crisis. People like Stephen are why we have the other critical aspects of the Bill of Rights that need to be protected. So that when Stephen comes a knocking with a van from the Department of Health with a couple of orderlies to forcibly take your children away, despite no symptoms at all, there is a recourse.

    2. First, it’s risible for you to suggest that your imagination is so pitiful that you simply cannot comprehend there are people out there who would put other humans in danger, including their own families.

      Second, since we’re talking about parents hiding symptoms from authorities to prevent the state from separating them from their children, and since children are at minimal risk of COVID, it’s not obvious that there’s any “deadly danger”. Unless you think driving your children to the store is also putting them in “deadly danger”.

      Third, let me remove all doubt for you. I have a daughter. If I had cold-like symptoms and the state said I needed to report to them so they could determine whether to separate me from my daughter, I’m one of the people who would not report.

      1. One of the few cases where NToJ and I agree.

      2. And what’s still not known is the percentage of people without serious symptoms — we neither know how many people have this nor have recovered from it (and hence are immune). And your daughter could actually be immune at this point.

        This is a statistical issue, not a legal one — without knowing both (a) how many people are actually infected and (b) how many people are immune from having recovered from it, all of the statistical models are totally bogus.

      3. Armchair, you seem to be talking about going to lengths to not protect your children. What you are really saying, boiled down, is the same thing some Christian Scientists say, “My beliefs will prevail, even if my child has to die.”

        Once again, no one is suggesting your child should be, “taken away.” By formulating it that way, you give yourself permission to indulge in extremist thinking. That isn’t healthy.

        1. No that is literally exactly what they are saying. Your children will be taken away, and you will not be able to be with them or see them. Let’s repeat the quote.

          “In a smart quarantine, anyone in a family who is not well — and if you’re sheltering in place, whomever you are with is considered “family” — must get tested and be separated from the family until results return. While awaiting results, the separated family member can move into temporary accommodations overseen by medical professionals and be tested.”

        2. The threat to take children away is not to protect the children. It’s to flatten the curve. All experts agree that COVID poses virtually no death risk to children because the infection fatality ratio for children is infinitesimal. The most recent update from Oxford’s team for the overall IFR was between .1% and .26% for all age cohorts. They conclude that “Mortality in children seems to be near zero (unlike flu) which is also reassuring and will act to drive down the IFR significantly.”

      4. NToJ, so you’re saying no danger to your daughter if you die? You are saying you have weighed the relative dangers—your daughter taken for certain to quarantine and hospital treatment of limited duration—vs. some unknown, limited, but not trivial, probability of your death—and the clear best choice for your daughter is the latter?

        1. “NToJ, so you’re saying no danger to your daughter if you die?”

          Oh for fuck’s sake. I’m saying the government’s approach puts my daughter’s life in danger regardless of whether you frame it in terms of her chances or mine. Any government policy that discourages me from reporting my illness to the people who can help me, increases the risk that I die, and (per you) puts her at risk, of my death. But rest assured, I used “cold-like symptoms” specifically to alert you to the fact that if I thought I in fact needed to be hospitalized, I would go to a fucking hospital regardless of what the government says or does, because I don’t want to die. I assume you don’t usually hospitalize yourself from “cold-like symptoms”.

          But, again, we weren’t talking about only those people who thought they were on death’s door. The Op-Ed says “not well”. It already assumes that “not well” is dissimilar from “needs hospitalization” since a person in a hospital with COVID is already quarantined from their family, and therefore has no use for the NYT’s editorial board’s concept of “smart quarantine”.

        2. Also, the NYT Editorial board lives in fantasy world if it thinks the answer is for everyone with any symptoms whatsoever to flood hospitals the country over. The only way we could possibly deal with shortages of medical care is if some group of people who have COVID don’t seek medical treatment, based on all expert estimates of the number of infected people in the country today.

          1. It is ghoulish for the NYT to suggest it is somehow ‘Ok’ to forcibly remove children from parents in the name of a ‘smart quarantine’. There is nothing smart about what they advocate at all. Um no, why would any parent ever report, again?

        3. Stephen, I can’t believe you so ignore the family bond…

  7. Let me answer this for you…

    Oh hell no.

    There are very few things that will encourage widespread rebellion. But this is one of them. The government isn’t taking my kids away because they “think” the kid needs to be quarantined or I need to be quarantined away from them due to Covid. It will not happen.

    I will employ my second amendment rights to prevent it. I will flee to Canada or Mexico and apply for asylum. It won’t happen.

    1. The government isn’t taking my kids away because they “think” the kid needs to be quarantined or I need to be quarantined away from them due to Covid. It will not happen.

      I will employ my second amendment rights to prevent it.

      I’m impressed, tough guy. You’re so macho.

      This is exactly the sort of talk that makes me not sympathize with gun rights advocates, even though I concede that their rights are protected by the Second Amendment. You are saying that if it comes to the point where we have to separate people within families to prevent the spread of a deadly virus, you will martyr yourself (and that’s what it will be- the government always wins, as you saw in Waco and Ruby Ridge) in a pointless act, possibly taking the lives of some innocent cops, rather than do what is necessary to protect your fellow human being.

      As John Donne said, “no man is an island”. And you seem to think you are on Fantasy Island.

      1. And you appear to not be a parent. This ain’t Waco.

        If the US government tries to take people’s kids over Covid, this is the Second American Revolution.

        1. Technically, the third.

        2. No, it won’t be the Second American Revolution. That’s just your delusions of grandeur.

          And I’d rather people didn’t act out their delusions with firearms, or even fantasize about it.

          1. Like I said. You appear not to be a parent. You have no idea the lengths that people will go to, in order to protect their children.

            1. Armchair, are you sure you sound protective? A lot of folks reading your stuff might conclude you sound hotheaded and reckless—not the best qualities in a dad.

              Also, your implication that any other parent who is not emotionally in tune with you is somehow deficient, that’s not good either. Other parents will surely cut you some slack for that emotion, but try to tone it down, and get the guns out of it.

              1. You are proposing to take people’s children away because they are asymptomatic for a virus which has an extraordinarily low chance of any type of severe effects for 99% of them.

                How do you think they should respond? With glee? Happy acceptance? What else would you like to propose to do to the children?

              2. lathrop, Armchair is reacting like pretty much any parent would. Use your common sense. Do you honestly think any parent will stand meekly aside while a government agent just waltzes off with their kid, and not allowing parents access to their children? What?! If you really think this would happen without serial major reactions nationwide, many quite probably violent, you are badly mistaken. Covid-19 is bad, but it isn’t that bad.

                If some pathogen were truly that virulent and deadly (think smallpox crossed with ebola with a 100% mortality rate and a nasty, lingering death), parents would be first in line telling the government, “Give my child a chance for a life and get her/him out of here now”. And gladly hand them over. Much different circumstance.

                This ‘smart quarantine’ horseshit from NYT is just insidious, and malign. If you do a ‘smart quarantine’ for pathogens, just what other justification might the State use to remove children from their parents, against their will? Thinking the wrong way? Having the wrong belief? Belonging to the wrong group? Being the wrong race?

                No thanks…I’ll take the ‘dumb’ quarantine where the governor of the state – who has to face voters – makes that decision. And we voters hold his/her ass accountable at the ballot box. I’m good with that. You should be too.

                1. Commenter_XY, I knew a therapist who practiced a specialty in what she called, “extreme thinking.” People afflicted that way see slippery slopes everywhere, with outlandish catastrophes lurking at the bottom of every slope. They also tend to discount to zero the role of social norms in keeping the world on track. So for the extreme thinkers, there are no normative guard rails at the tops of the slopes. The safe plateau at the top of the slopes seems too small. Danger lies in every direction, and all the danger is maximal.

                  It seems to me that Armchair may be caught up in some extreme thinking.

                  My therapist friend told me she found one therapeutic approach to be especially useful. It was intended to help extreme thinkers become more mindful of the protective norms, which are often the real guard rails. The approach was largely defined by a single question, which could be elaborated to cover whatever specifics a case presented. The question: “Suppose you are 100% correct in everything you say. What do you think is going to happen if you go around insisting to everyone that they see it your way?”

                  1. This is not extreme thinking. This is not slipperly slope

                    You are proposing, during the current epidemic, with the current mortality rates, in the current age groups, forcibly actively taking young asymptomatic children away their mothers.

                    From the OP “Would the state have a compelling enough interest to separate parents from their young children for weeks at a time?”

                    This is extreme. You would literally pull babies from the arms of their mothers, in the current epidemic, for weeks, despite a complete lack of symptoms.

                  2. I call them “VooDoo Scientists” for a reason — and they are dangerous…

                2. “Possibly” Violent?!?


            2. Apparently, he is just fine with AGWs acting out their delusions with firearms.

      2. The cops aren’t innocent if they’re complying with an illegal order. Forcibly separating parents from children over a disease with an *at worst* 1% population-wide fatality rate, mostly concentrated among the elderly, is most definitely an illegal order.

        1. The law isn’t “whatever Squirrelloid says it is”.

          1. It isn’t what the king or his men say it is either.

        2. Forcibly separating parents from their children would itself cause greater than a 1% population fatality rate.

          And guns are not the only lethal weapons….

      3. You don’t sympathize with gun rights advocates because they are willing to die to defend their rights? Do you also not sympathize with reporters willing to go to jail to protect their sources, folks who were willing to die to help African Americans in the south to vote, etc.?

        “Possibly taking the lives of some innocent cops” – if they’re forcibly removing people from their families, they aren’t innocent.

        And of course, the government doesn’t always win. Plenty of governments have been overthrown from within.

        1. “You don’t sympathize with gun rights advocates because they are willing to die to defend their rights?”

          I don’t sympathize with gun rights advocates because they fantasize about shooting law enforcement types and leading armed revolt against the government.

          1. Listen. I don’t want to shoot or revolt against anyway. But if you come strolling into my house trying to take away my kids, I’ll do what needs to be done to protect them.

            1. Edit. Anyone. Not anyway.

            2. Armchair, nobody is trying to, “take away,” your kids. Calm down.

              High-stakes controversy seems to be a weakness for some gun advocates. Instead of trying to cool things down, this type seems emotionally inclined to nudge sharp disagreements toward escalation, and threats of violence.

              The fact that folks like that are fairly common in pro-gun circles is one of the principal motivations driving would-be gun-controllers. If pro-gun folks seemed always to push for de-escalation, others wouldn’t be nearly so worried about guns.

              1. “Armchair, nobody is trying to, “take away,” your kids. Calm down.”

                Yes. You are. That is literally, expliticly, what this post was about. “Separating” families due to perceived illness, and “quarantining” members in separate locations. And you appear to be defending it.

          2. While I suspect that a lot (most) cops would call in sick on the day they were told to steal people’s children, my guess is that they’d be dying from a whole lot more than guns. Think asymmetric warfare, think of what happened to our troops in Vietnam….

          3. While there certainly might be gun rights advocates who fantasize about shooting law enforcement types and leading armed revolt, I think you are highly overestimating the proportion of those fantasists among gun rights advocates. By your logic, everyone in the military fantasizes about war, because they’re always training for it and talking about it.

            It’s interesting that the people with whom you hang around doesn’t include anyone who overemphasizes the power granted by the general welfare clause, but does include a large number of gun rights advocates who fantasize about shooting cops and revolting against the government. I think, more likely, is that you’re ignoring the people you encounter in the former case, and overestimate the number you encounter in the latter.

      4. They would absolutely not be innocent cops in that scenario.

  8. >I also doubt this policy would be particularly effective.
    Compared to what? Our current system of semi-quarentines??

    The big advantage of any smart (i.e., stricter but more limited in scope) quarantine system is that everyone else can provide succor to those affected.

    1. Much depends upon whether I think my kids would be in better care in government run kiddie centers, or sticking around the house with me.
      If there is anyone who wishes to argue that government camps are a good option, and would be run in a manner that would not become an emotional hell, and covid breeding ground like on a cruise ship, then volunteer to send your kids to this government sponsored youth spa now. You know, show us with concrete actions that your words are something more than mere puffery.

      Simply saying that you definitely would do something is not nearly as convincing an argument as you actually doing something. If the effects of family separation are as benign as seems to be proposed, then truly, what is stopping you from showing us by voluntarily sending your kids to government run detention.

  9. Its interesting not only how this situation challenges our dedication to fundamental rights it also shows the true face of what many people really think of these rights.

    So many little budding fascists in local government and the media leaping with illdisguised joy at the first opportunity to grab power and remove rights. You can tell who the first collaborators of a new dictator would be from the guy who posts how this situation proves how socialism is a good thing or the local politicians eagerly competing with each other to ramp up more and more restrictions and happily telling people to snitch on each other like in a police state.

    When this is over and it will end, we need to remember and hold accountable these enemies, and really there is no better way to describe them, that have outed themselves.

  10. I will say again what I have said on other posts: the majority of people are grossly over-reacting to this. The blind panic over what is a pretty run-of-the-mill respiratory illness, where the hysteria is real, reflects poorly on the average person’s ability to gauge risk. Where the hysteria is a pretense (in those who wield power at whatever level), it camouflages a distressing totalitarian impulse.
    Which I find far more terrifying than a virus.

    There may be someday a hemorrhagic fever or bacterial pestilence that necessitates that we relinquish our liberty in order to save humanity. This ain’t it.

  11. I saw smart quarantine and I thought they would be recommending quarantining the old and others with already compromised health. Protect the weakeast and let the rest of the population back to work.

    Models keep getting reduced, almost daily. Numbers released on the 2cnd, were reduced from the 100k – 220k, to around 86K, now 4 days later, there is a 46k number tossed out.
    2017-2018 flu season saw 80k died. So all that screeching about covid 19 NOT being the season flu, is right, Its only 1/2 as deadly as the seasonal flu.

    1. Iowan, what you describe is what public health success looks like. We all hope it can come out that way, even if you don’t understand what happened. I get that you will bore everyone for years trying to call it overreach. It’s a price I’m willing to pay.

      1. Where’s the control group that would indicate measures taken did anything? Maybe this is the natural progression, and all the actions taken were for naught?
        It all sounds terribly logical, but we lack evidence. Maybe with nothing done at all we would have seen a peak 10% higher but over quicker, same mortality rate.

      2. In so doing, you are contradicting your very words above anent de-escalation. Instead of being as cool as the other side of the pillow, you are allowing your fear hormones to rule your position.

        You may be willing to pay the price of home confinement and cratering the economy and sacrificing another’s livelihood, but please don’t be so arrogant to expect rational people to do the same.

        1. I don’t know why you think you’re the rational one.

    2. Not only do the numbers keep going down, but the 1968 pandemic, which the government intentionally didn’t take any action on, killed 100k americans. (At a time when there were less than 2/3 as many americans as today).

      Then add in the fact that the lockdown has, at best, had a few days worth of measurable action, and possibly as little as zero. (Long incubation time and only testing people with symptoms severe enough to seek medical attention means there’s at least a 2 week lag between infection and diagnosis, if not longer, for those who do get diagnosed).

      Then add to that people voluntarily took action before any lockdowns were ordered, while the worst case predictions assumed *nothing* was done, including those voluntary measures.

      The likelihood that the lockdowns will have much effect is pretty small.

      Meanwhile, just 50 years ago a flu pandemic killed what would have been ~150k people in today’s population, the economy didn’t even blink, and people who lived through it don’t even remember it
      (i’ve asked both my parents and my in-laws, all of whom were young adults at the time, one of whom was a nurse). We’re not going to remember covid-19 in 50 years, we’re only going to remember the lockdown.

      1. Just a note, Squirreled, the incubation time is *up to* two weeks (with, last I saw, about a half percent of people becoming symptomatic after that), the last number I saw was that the median is around 5.5 days. Which is still a significant amount of time for asymptomatic people to spread the virus unawares, but not quite the two week lag you’ve mentioned here.

  12. Look at the New York Times, gettin’ their 1619 on!

    Old Grey Lady — you go, gurl!

  13. While it might only wind up being half as deadly as the seasonal flu, it will be because of the strong measures taken against it if it is.

    And the thing about comparing it to a flu season is that deaths over the course of flu season come over a much longer period of time. These are coming in a much shorter period of time. Did the governor of New York talk about commandeering medical equipment from upstate to take care of the victims in NYC? Did places run out of PPE? How many medical professionals were there among the victims? This is much more than a typical flu season, or even a severe one.

    1. That remains to be seen. There have indeed been flu seasons that hit some places so hard that they ran out of ICU beds and the means to care for the patients (New Orleans, swine flu, for example).

      And one of the reasons we are short of PPE is because the swine flu depleted the national stockpile (which was then not replenished by either Obama or Trump).

  14. There is a huge gap between the complete prohibition on living together that the Supreme Court addressed in More v. City of East Cleveland and a temporary quarantine To deal with an emergency.

    Even judge-made law isn’t absolute.

    What next, military personnel (e.g. doctors) can never be deployed because this would infringe on their constitutional right to live with their families?

  15. Why has no one really talked about the fact that so far at least, Sweden is faring about on par with its neighbors despite(?) them taking far less restrictive measures?

  16. Dyzalot, I don’t want to make too much of these stats, because who knows what confounding variables lurk among them, but they don’t show what you say.

    These are all from Johns Hopkins, and current as I write:

    Denmark: 5266 cases; 203 fatalities; percent fatalities, 3.8%
    Finland: 2308 cases; 34 fatalities; percent fatalities, 1.5%
    Norway: 6068 cases; 89 fatalities; percent fatalities, 1.4%
    Sweden: 7693 cases; 591 fatalities; percent fatalities, 7.7%

    For what it is worth, Sweden with 10-million-plus population has about twice the population of each of the other nations, which are similar in size. Combine populations from the other 3 nations, and you get a total population about half-again that of Sweden, but combined total fatalities of 326 vs. Sweden’s 591. Sweden seems to be faring notably worse than all the others. The one place where Sweden does have an apparent statistical advantage is that it shows a lower rate of infection compared to population. The disparity in fatalities suggests to me that Sweden might not deserve credit for that, because it probably has not counted its cases as well as the others have, which would, however, account somewhat for its higher fatality rate.

    1. Those differences in percent fatalities could be entirely due to different testing regimes.

      Until randomized population antibody testing starts happening, percent fatality numbers are all suspect. Even Fauci puts the true infection fatality rate somewhere in the range of 0.2-1% in his academic publication.

      1. Minimizers gotta minimize, I guess. Dyzalot was minimizing in the teeth of known facts. Anyone, of course, is free to make up unknown facts, and attribute to them whatever trends you want.

        I suggest the larger picture is starting to come into focus, as the varied experiences among states become known—as reflected in state-by-state analysis from the University of Washington. Those data are still rough, and show signs of internal contradictions. But a few things stand out so clearly that I think we can rely on them.

        First and foremost, even after aggressive social measures to control it, if the covid-19 virus gets a running start, it is extraordinarily contagious, and lethal to older victims. That is the experience in New York, and anyone trying to minimize New York’s aggressively managed ordeal will struggle to find in American history any comparable context to justify the minimizing—unless it is the experience of the 1918 pandemic.

        From New York’s experience we can extrapolate to what an uncontrolled, un-socially-managed epidemic might look like nationwide, and that result is pretty horrible. Deaths numbered at 2-million to 3-million might indeed have followed a nationwide laissez faire response. But we know now that no such attitude will govern response, anywhere in the U.S., so those numbers will not be approached. Almost every state is mobilized to some degree. Any that find themselves in trouble will mobilize further, after incurring unnecessary loses, but still keeping the lid on.

        What the varied experiences and state-by-state projections seem to show is that time to prepare is critically important. Most of the nation got a planning boon from seeing the earliest outbreak—in the Northeast and Northwest—go nearly out of control.

        Comparative statistics may be showing retrospectively that in the Northeast the pandemic had a longer undetected incubation than previously understood. That, at least, might explain why seemingly-similar levels of social management in other states are now projected to deliver notably better results than in the Northeast.

        The fact seems to be that the Northeast got blindsided, and seeing that happen let other states mobilize before the virus got there in force. Those later-affected states now have a better long-term prognosis than northeastern states which led the way, and did roughly the same or more to restrict contagion, but maybe too late.

        A few states have not yet mobilized, and still show little disease. That would be consistent with the notion that the virus is still spreading, and not yet much present in some areas. Presumably, early signs of infection will spur action wherever infection occurs. That means the pandemic in the U.S. will be controlled far short of its peak potential for inflicting injury and death. Which is very good news.

        The aftermath is another matter, and apparently still unplanned-for. Also another matter is the take-away. One hazard—we see it playing out in these comments—is that folks from less-affected areas—and especially those who are motivated reasoners on behalf of political factions—will continue to downplay and minimize the threat, and over-credit the response. I urge folks who are doing that to focus their attention closely on news coverage from New York, using the New York Times and other local outlets as their sources. That will tell you what this virus really is. It is nothing to be minimized.

        1. I think there is a good chance we eventually find out that the virus was much more widespread than previously thought, even as early as January in the US.

          1. There isn’t.

    2. These are KNOWN cases, we have no way of knowing actual cases.

      Nor do we know how many have NOT been infected, the peak may already have passed….

    3. That’s only a part of the calculation though. If a country loses more people but is stronger economically when it is over, were they right? What if Sweden’s life expectancy continues to rise while other countries see a stall or dip due to a depression? Where are the calculations for the lives lost and harmed due to economic harm? Why are we only calculating the short term health costs?

  17. perspective is this.
    per cdc, nominal (non-covid times) death rate 2.2/100,000 per day
    I look up my state’s peak prediction on the NPR web site, 0.2/100,000 per day.
    Or, about 10% of all deaths for a few weeks will be covid related, most of those folks sickly, and will have their ‘statistic’ moved up by a relatively short time period.
    So yeah, its a bad thing, but not armageddon or anything. By contrast, what we are doing to the livelihood of virtually every american is huge.

    1. I expect that, due to the virus’s effect on people with other risk factors, that a notably higher rate of deaths due to the virus in an area will be accompanied with a somewhat lower death rate for a while afterwards, as the virus takes out a number of people who, absent the virus would have otherwise died within the next couple years.

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