The following editorial was published in the April 17th, 2020 edition of the Highland Community News in Highland, California.
Most of us remember when the California Public Health Department along with the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors declared a “local health emergency” on March 10 due to the coronavirus.
But some people, including myself, are starting to wonder how far should we go?
My question goes to how much of our personal freedoms should we give up to defeat this virus?
Let’s recap where we are so far, on March 18 the County of San Bernardino asked for the closing of all movie theaters, gyms, health clubs, bars, adult entertainment establishments and other businesses that serve alcohol but do not serve food.
Liquor stores, grocery stores, fast food drive-thrus, banks, airports and post offices along with UPS and FedEx were considered essential businesses.
The states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Georgia have already begun taking customers’ temperatures before they enter the grocery store. One farmer’s market in Atlanta has gone as far as installing thermal cameras at their entrances. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher “will be discreetly informed by a trained member of our staff, and we will find an alternative for your shopping,” said the City Farmers Market.
Now the first question I would be asking in this situation is what gives you (the market or grocery store) the right to take my temperature?
And what about HIPPA laws? What are you doing with my data or information you are collecting?
It can be debated that this is being done to protect people, but what about people who have to go to the pharmacy to pick up medicine, are we going to deny them access to the medicine they need because we think they have the coronavirus?
I was watching the PBS Newshour about two weeks back, when they had a report on how Taiwan defeated the coronavirus. The report chronicled how a Taiwanese citizen flew back from London to Taipei (the capital of Taiwan). When she landed at the airport she had to go through an extensive secondary medical screening along with a test for coronavirus because she had a cough two weeks prior. She was made to give the Taiwanese government the right to look at her medical history then upload that history and other Taiwanese citizens’ history into a national database. By the way, you don’t see me use the word consent. As the report showed, it’s mandatory to enroll in the database. The citizen was then registered online after which she was sent a text message that she has to show government officials.
After her bags were disinfected, the government began to track her movements; she was then escorted to a government-provided taxi by herself, which cost her $80 U.S. dollars. For the next 14 days, the citizen was quarantined and tracked by the Taiwanese government using her cell phone GPS functions and was checked on regular basis by text message and in-person visits to make sure she did not leave her residence.
While some of what Taiwan did and continues to do has saved lives, with only a death toll of 329 as of April 2, it has cost their citizens their personal freedoms.
Which leads back to the question: How far should we go?