Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Coronavirus Update 5-20-2020: Governor DeWine’s “Ohioans Protecting Ohioans” advisory is a colossal miscalculation

This past weekend offered a perfect coronavirus storm in Ohio. The weather on Saturday was postcard-perfect, and restaurant and bar patios were open for business. This combination caused scenes like this one on the banks of the Cuyahoga River:

Governor Mike DeWine reacted swiftly to these reports by assembling "a large contingent of law enforcement and health officials from across state agencies and from our local communities" to spot-check and investigate restaurants and bars. He further made clear that restaurants that ignore his reopening requirements could face prosecution and lose their liquor license. 

Yesterday, however, Governor DeWine also stated that the State is now moving from requirements imposed on people to strong recommendations for people to follow.  

Entitled "Ohioans Protecting Ohioans," these recommendations still include, for example, that people should maintain six feet of social distance from others when in public and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. According to the Governor, "This is a new phase in our battle against COVID-19, and it is incumbent upon each of us to protect each other." But they are only recommendations and have no force of law behind them to enforce violations.

To protect each other we all have to be willing to do what is necessary to put the interests of society as a whole above our own self-interest. And I've seen nothing in the past two months that suggests that a large portion of our society is willing or able to do this.

Maybe I'm too cynical or jaded, but a rule of law that relies on trust instead of mandates is a rule of law that is doomed to fail. Governor DeWine's coronavirus response has an 83 percent approval rating, which means that 17 percent believe Ohio's prior Stay at Home Order was a mistake, unnecessary, or unlawful. Two million people refusing to wear masks and ignoring social distancing is enough to create a public health armageddon. 

When it comes to COVID-19, experience has proven that we simply cannot trust people to police themselves. The state is going to have to do its part and police social distancing and other requirements. Otherwise, the zealous efforts of some to reopen society will jeopardize the health and lives of all. This change from requirements to recommendations is a colossal mistake, and I fear that in a month from now we will all be paying the price for it. I'll be continuing to do my part to keep myself and all around me healthy and safe. What will you be doing?