New York governor Andrew Cuomo took the last can of Who-hash by announcing a ban on both indoor and outdoor private gatherings larger than 10 people. It is just the latest flash of insanity from our nation’s leaders in trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it provoked an even larger backlash than usual because it attacks two sacred American institutions: Thanksgiving and the family.
Cuomo’s order is insulting to our intelligence and is disgustingly authoritarian. COVID science suggests gathering outdoors is relatively safe (it’s why so many states have offered restaurants money to winterize their patio dining), yet Cuomo tells families they cannot do it for Turkey Day. What if you live in a rural area and have a large backyard that makes social distancing possible? Cuomo’s rule offers no such exceptions. Nor are there exceptions if families are responsible and decided to self-quarantine for a period of time before meeting their relatives for the holidays. There’s something very eerie about the thought of government authorities going door to door and fining people for gathering with their own family members. It shouldn’t be surprising, though, from the same governor that has targeted the Orthodox Jewish community for continuing to hold religious services.
Young people are often told by government officials that they are responsible for keeping the elderly members of their family, who are at greater risk of death from COVID, safe. This is partially true, but it also infantilizes grown adults who should be allowed to assess risk and make decisions about their own health. The older you get, the more unpredictable your health. Grandma and grandpa may very well reason that they could go any day, and would rather spend whatever time they have left with their families, even if that means they risk getting COVID. A realistic approach to coronavirus would recognize the trade-off between preventing ‘just one death’ and the skyrocketing deaths of despair due to lockdowns.
Americans were more willing to abide by one-size-fits-all lockdown restrictions in the spring when politicians and epidemiologists convinced them that they knew more about this new virus than the rest of us. Plus we were all under the impression that we would only have to make short-term sacrifices to get the pandemic under control. Who could forget the infamous ‘15 Days to Slow the Spread’? Now that the pandemic has bled into the holiday season and Joe Biden’s coronavirus adviser has threatened a nationwide lockdown, Americans deserve to opportunity to handle the pandemic with some personal responsibility.
At least one county in New York says that they won’t enforce Cuomo’s Thanksgiving restrictions. Other localities should follow suit, and families should fire up the deep fryer and give the middle finger to the out-of-touch government officials who would try to keep them apart.
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