Social mingling is the new drunk driving


social distancing graphic

Thomas Hart

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, many of us are adjusting to the new social-distancing life. Even this far into the pandemic, though, some people are still not taking the situation seriously.

Despite frequent reminders to social distance and the knowledge that thousands of Americans have now died from COVID-19, some people continue to gather in crowds and live their lives as if nothing has changed. As a result, the virus keeps spreading and local and state governments have been cracking down.

Many states have issued stay-at-home orders, requiring that people avoid being in public except for necessary activities. Some states now prohibit gathering in groups of more than ten, and those who test positive for the virus are required by law to self-quarantine.

Some local governments have taken it a step further to enforce these rules. In Louisville, and Kanawha County, W.Va, for instance, those who refuse to self-quarantine after testing positive for the virus are now forced to wear GPS-tracking ankle bracelets.   

All of this seems a bit crazy. Being forced to say at home? No public assembly? Even tracking devices for people who don’t comply? Aren’t these regulations infringing on our freedom?

The answer is yes, they are. But considering what is at stake, this is hardly different from laws already in place. When peoples’ lives or safety are threatened by the behavior of individuals, the government creates regulations to protect the community. Consider the laws against drunk driving or smoking in public areas. These regulations limit your freedom, but the point is that they protect those who could fall victim to the behavior of a few individuals.

Drunk driving is illegal because we know that when intoxicated, drivers lose control of their vehicles and kill people. Smoking in many public areas is banned because we know secondhand smoke can lead to disease and premature death.

Now in the wake of the greatest epidemic our country has seen in decades, we have banned social mingling because it spreads this disease which is killing hundreds of people every day. 

No one intends to spread COVID-19, just like no one intends to crash their car after having a drink or two. But every person, whether you have symptoms or not, could be a carrier of the virus without knowing.

The decision to go into public is now an ethical choice, just like deciding to get behind the wheel after drinking. Lives are at stake here, and we all must consider our actions carefully in this time.