Politics & Policy

After One Year of Coronavirus, It’s Time to Restore Our Freedom

A woman wears a stars-and-stripes bandana for a face mask in Washington, D.C., April 2, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
‘Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread’ wasn’t supposed to last a year. As cases decline and vaccinations increase, let’s start returning to normal.

Coronavirus lockdowns were only supposed to last for a couple of weeks, supposedly to make sure we could build up our hospital capacity. Those of us who were skeptical about claims like this were derided as either anti-science, callous about human life, or conspiracy theorists. Yet today is the 365th day since the beginning of the “two weeks to slow the spread” campaign, and our economy remains hamstrung and kids are still locked out of their classrooms. By now, it should be obvious that this isn’t about science and safety, but compliance and control, and it won’t stop unless we the people make it stop.

On March 16, 2020, former president Donald Trump announced the beginning of a few-week period of restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, history has shown us what happens when we give the government an inch of extra power. Despite the stated purpose of these restrictions, various governments — federal, state, and local — used this opportunity to eviscerate livelihoods and to push a political agenda.

This is why on March 20, 2020, I wrote that Americans needed a “date certain” for returning to their normal lives while taking commonsense public-health measures (hand-washing, sanitizing, etc.) to protect our seniors and those who are immunocompromised. Instead, we went from the greatest economy in American history to an unemployment rate of 14.8 percent, the highest since 1948. Now, Americans are still grappling with the damage caused not only by the virus itself, but rather by our disproportionate and overblown response to it.

When the coronavirus was declared a national emergency, businesses across America were forced to shutter their doors, with nearly 170,000 business closures by September, 98,000 of which were permanent. Surviving businesses have been forced by politicians and bureaucrats to jump through hoops — e.g., by creating restaurants out of sidewalks and streets, and generally dealing with upended business models — just to stay afloat.

If only that were the extent of the damage. But human beings aren’t just bodies; our minds and our souls also suffer from the effects of bad policy. Last spring, schools across the country shuttered their doors. And while corrupt teachers’ unions are fighting to keep them closed, many students are falling months behind in critical areas such as math and reading. An estimated 3 million are missing from the education system altogether. Americans’ mental health has also suffered. From one CDC study in July, 40.9 percent of participants reported having at least one adverse mental- or behavioral-health condition. Eleven percent reported having seriously considered suicide.

And the financial price tag for this destruction? The federal government has doled out roughly $6 trillion in response to this crisis in less than a year. For reference, that’s more than the entire price tag for our victory in World War II and almost the full total of the national debt when I came to Washington as a Senate staffer in 2003. Not only are we shortchanging kids in the present, we’re making their futures worse at the same time.

But while so many of their fellow citizens have lost so much, career politicians and public-health bureaucrats — a minimal distinction, I know — have only gained popularity and prestige through exercising their power. For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the highest-paid bureaucrat in the federal government, who has been wrong about many aspects of the pandemic, who got to throw out the first pitch at the start of the Nationals’ season, has been all but deified by some. And just this week, he said that only if “we get the level of infection so low” will Americans actually be able to celebrate Independence Day.

We cannot abide any more fear-mongering; we know better. The Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” pulled off nothing short of a medical miracle in the rapid production of vaccines that have now fully or partially vaccinated over 107 million Americans. Now, 63.4 percent of all Americans 65 years and older have already received at least one dose. COVID-19 cases have plummeted and have not shown increasing trends since the beginning of January. Fatality rates continue to decline; the seven-day-average fatality rate has dropped 60 percent since early January. Many COVID treatments, including hydroxychloroquine, budesonide, and antibody regimens, have shown efficacy in treating patients.

Despite these positive trends, the power-hungry policies continue. School unions and teachers have argued against the need to reopen schools, regardless of students’ well-being. Local officials are still hamstringing businesses, forcing them to operate at reduced capacity. The CDC has issued more confusing guidance, saying fully vaccinated people can gather without social distancing or wearing masks in some settings, but not in public or while with certain households.

On the horizon, things are poised to become worse. We hear politicians and bureaucrats talk about the prospect of “vaccine passports” to restrict our travel and questions of whether we will be allowed to celebrate Independence Day together. The sheer absurdity of these ideas against the backdrop of the data above makes it even more obvious: This is really about power, and it won’t stop unless we make it stop.

One year later, and one year wiser, Americans have had enough. No more extensions of the “two weeks to slow the spread.” It is time for the American people to demand the return of their lives, their livelihoods, and their liberties, and start saying no to those who wish to maintain control. And that begins by turning away from fear, planting our feet, and giving a firm and unflinching “no.”

Chip Roy serves as the U.S. representative for Texass 21st congressional district.


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