By all rights, there should be some very big names in Washington who are quarantining right now.
The office of Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, in a July 24 order, required “[a]ll residents and persons traveling to or from ‘high-risk areas’ within the prior fourteen (14) days for non-essential travel must self-quarantine for fourteen (14) days following their return or arrival to the District,” a high-risk area being described as “locations where seven (7)-day moving average daily new COVID-19 case rate is ten (10) or more per one hundred thousand (100,000) persons.”
One of 27 states included in the order, according to The Washington Post, is Georgia — which is where the funeral for the late Rep. John Lewis was held on Friday. While the quarantine rule would generally be difficult to enforce otherwise, given the relative anonymity of most of those traveling in and out of the District of Columbia and the ability of police to monitor their movements, the same thing couldn’t be said for the politicians who were attending the funeral.
They included some of the most high-profile figures in the nation, after all — and even the most minor congressman, politico or aide is still a lot more visible than, say, some middle-manager who decided to drive to Delaware for the weekend to go to the beach.
Thanks to a smooth bit of casuistry, however, not a single one of them will spend a day in quarantine.
You can probably guess the reasoning if you stare at the excerpted parts of the order for long enough — namely, the word “non-essential.”
“Government activity is essential, and the Capitol of the United States is exempt from the Mayor’s Order,” said Bowser Press Secretary Susana Castillo when Just the News reached out to her on Friday.
Just the News, predictably, asked two other questions of Castillo, both of which she answered “yes” to.
First, whether Lewis’ funeral constituted “government activity.”
Second, whether attendees of non-governmental funerals would have to quarantine upon returning to the district.
In short, the Lewis funeral and its attendees are benefiting from a double standard.
As Just the News pointed out, this wasn’t the first time the government was exempted from one of Bowser’s COVID-19-related orders.
Earlier in the month, Bowser’s office decreed that, when individuals were either indoors or were going to be outdoors and “are likely to come into contact with another person, such as being within six feet of another person for more than a fleeting time,” they must wear a mask.
Exempted? “[P]ersons in the judicial or legislative branches of the District government while those persons are on duty; and shall not apply to any employees of the federal government while they are on duty.”
The House of Representatives, in fairness, decided to do the job itself, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mandating masks in the lower house after GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas tested positive for COVID-19.
Pelosi, by the by, would have been one of the politicians who would have had to quarantine upon returning from Georgia from the funeral, after having given one of the speeches. Other attendees in Congress included Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, all Democrats.
According to Roll Call, 50 sitting lawmakers attended the service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
“I’m pleased to be here with so many members, 50,” Pelosi said. “We would’ve had more, except coronavirus prevented the church from allowing us to bring more.”
I don’t begrudge these lawmakers having attended the funeral, mind you. It’s the openly “Animal Farm”-ish attitude toward this by the District of Columbia’s government: All district residents are equal, but some district residents are more equal than others.
There was nothing particularly essential about John Lewis’ funeral. Yes, he was a prominent politician and part of the vanguard of the civil rights movement — but many individuals, famous and unknown, moral giants and moral degenerates, have died during the coronavirus pandemic, and that hasn’t made their funerals any more or less necessary, much less an essential function of government.
That’s especially true when taking into account just how little “government activity” was involved in the Lewis funeral and how much Democratic campaign activity was involved.
This was “essential” only to Democrats looking for face time on national television to bash President Donald Trump. It wasn’t in the least “essential” to the people of the United States, who are supposed to be the reason lawmakers are serving in Washington in the first place.
It’s also true when you consider this was a funeral where social distancing wasn’t particularly on the minds of the grieved:
So I have liberal friends & family arguing with me that they were social distancing at John Lewis funeral, even with these pictures as evidence. How’s your night going? pic.twitter.com/d1rhlRNH9T
— Kemba (@kembageorge) August 1, 2020
If the point is to stop the spread, encouraging members of Congress and their retinues to attend the funeral might actually be worse than the average District of Columbia resident visiting Georgia.
Lawmakers, movers and shakers that they are, are probably going to come into contact with more people than our hypothetical middle-manager. If you believe in the essential nature of government, this is even worse, since the people they’re going to be coming into contact with are also going to be essential — and they all spend a fair chunk of their days indoors with one another.
So, if quarantines of those who travel to high-risk areas are crucial to the public welfare, what Bowser’s office does or doesn’t do shouldn’t matter so much. These individuals — dedicated to “public service” after all — should be deciding for themselves in the public service to stay out of circulation for two weeks. Does anyone expect that to happen?
If there are any of these individuals choosing to follow the quarantine orders voluntarily, they remain unidentified as of Sunday.
There’s still the opportunity, though, for our politicians to let America know they think it’s only right and responsible to follow the rules of the city in which they work.
Don’t expect them to take it.
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