As California’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases barrels toward the four-digit mark, the state’s highest official has announced that martial law is a possibility.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom put the extreme measure on the table during a news conference Tuesday as he detailed California’s plan to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
According to NBC Bay Area, Newsom confirmed the state’s measures included taking over two vacant hospitals to help lessen the impact of the virus on existing medical facilities.
Along with the hospitals, California is attempting to acquire tens of thousands of hotel rooms to house hospital patients and the state’s massive homeless population.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, is rapidly spread in close quarters and unsanitary conditions. The fear is that homeless camps in San Francisco and other west coast cities will become breeding grounds for the potentially fatal illness.
Newsom also put the California National Guard on alert, while declaring that he has the authority to suspend civil law and the freedoms guaranteed by it — if he feels it’s necessary.
While the governor’s office maintained the military force would be used for humanitarian purposes, Newsom claimed that “we have the ability to do martial law … if we feel the necessity.”
This warning comes days after the governor downplayed the possibility of martial law being declared.
“If you want to establish a framework of martial law, which is ultimate authority and enforcement, we have the capacity to do that, but we are not feeling at this moment that is a necessity,” Newsom said Sunday, according to The Sacramento Bee.
One possibility for the apparent change of tone is the sharp increase in the number of confirmed cases in the Golden State.
It’s unclear under what circumstances Newsom would declare martial law, or if he plans to use it solely to enforce a quarantine in the state.
Across the state, nearly all primary educational facilities have closed their doors for at least two weeks. For many, Newsom warned that the closures could last into summer break.
Similar measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 have been instituted in other states, with some local governments, including California’s, even closing bars and restaurants.
While coming down with the coronavirus feels like having the flu or a bad cold for most healthy people, the virus still boasts a fatality rate around 10 times that of seasonal influenza.
For the elderly and immunocompromised people, the risk is much greater.
These vulnerable people are who quarantines are intended to protect.
The less the disease can spread among the healthy, the lower a chance it has of reaching those unable to fight it off.
Quarantines may be an acceptable measure to achieve this in countries like China and North Korea, but the suspension of civil law and freedoms has no place in America.
In place of military law backed by force of arms, it should be up to every American citizen to practice common sense during our own viral outbreak.
Proper hand washing, social distancing and other common-sense techniques will do more than enough to slow the spread of COVID-19 until medical workers fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic can eliminate this virus for good.
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