Let’s set aside the president’s rants and lack of understanding of the Constitution. While governments (might) have the authority to shut businesses, they clearly do not have authority to order anyone to reopen. Even if the “all-clear” is given by Trump or a particular governor, it is the marketplace — individual businesses, their employees and American consumers — that will ultimately dictate the timing.
As much as we all want to return to some semblance of normalcy, do we really think our favorite neighborhood restaurant is going to open — and employees and customers show up — before there is confidence that the public health crisis has abated, with sufficient testing and contact tracing, at a minimum? Are Delta flight attendants, baggage handlers, mechanics and pilots really coming back in sufficient numbers? Are you ready to travel? Are you ready to go to a Braves or Falcons game? The $64,000 question is what level of risk our society is willing to take. To be sure, the answer to that question will be different for people based on their individual circumstances.
What I fear is missing from the current discussion to “reopen” our country is consideration of the potential compromises to individual privacy rights, the likes of which we have not seen since the Patriot Act was enacted following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In other countries, we are already seeing the use of GPS technology to track individuals based on their health status and various risk factors. It seems a logical and perhaps effective way to begin to safely reopen our economy. But who would manage this and who would have access to the data? It all seems so contrary to American values of privacy and basic freedom of movement. We might be willing to make some of these trade-offs, but I, for one, do not want this dictated by President Trump or the governors. We need Congress and state legislative bodies to begin considering these issues.
Lastly, while Trump and (in Georgia) Gov. Kemp do not have “total” authority over the marketplace, they do control federal and state workforces. The federal government employs roughly 2 million people and the state of Georgia close to 70,000 people. I would like to know our leaders’ plans to get their own workforces back to work. Let’s see how our federal and state employees react – that will tell us a lot.
The writer is a member of the Sandy Springs City Council. This letter is an edited version of a post he made on his personal Facebook page.
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