During a time of crisis, America has long-established protocols that define the National Response Framework as:
1. Federally supported,
2. State-led, and
3. Locally executed.
These guiding principles likewise applied to the U.S. National Strategy for Pandemic Response.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the 1824 landmark case Gibbons v. Ogden that the power to enforce quarantine or other measures in the name of public health belonged to the states. In the 1905 seminal case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts the SCOTUS upheld a state’s legal authority to enact vaccination policies. That decision was reaffirmed in the 1922 case Zucht v. King when the SCOTUS ruled that a San Antonio, Texas school district could exclude students from attending school until they receive required vaccinations. Federal CDC guidance tells states to utilize the least restrictive methods that will achieve the state’s concerns for public safety, particularly when the guidelines involve limiting individuals’ liberty.
While the Constitution protects certain rights and liberties of individuals from government interference, individual rights do not surpass the collective rights of a community.
This was a landmark decision made by SCOTUS under Jacobson v. Massachusetts; however, the Jacobson case also established four specific standards that government must meet in order to apply public health measures that would permissibly restrict individual rights:
1. Government action must be necessary.
2. Any action must apply reasonable means.
3. Action must be proportional, and
4. it should avoid harm to individuals’ health.
To reiterate the governors of states decide vaccination mandates, quarantine procedures, or other requirements in the interest of public safety within their states, not the federal government. The decisions on which businesses stay open or remain closed, school attendance, social distancing, mask mandates, etc. are the responsibility of the governors of their respective states. It was essential that local communities provide the most accurate data on infection rates and information about treatment response without bias. Providing top-down support with bottom-up execution and data collection is the most efficient process in a crisis. Accurate unbiased data helps states know what is best for their states, and local communities what is best for their communities. The federal government has proven countless times that when dictating to the lowest level of government they are inept if not totally incompetent. The federal government has the resources and can bring together leading experts, but their most important job is providing common sense leadership.
In times of crisis, citizens look to their elected leaders to demonstrate leadership; showing solidarity to help calm fears; working together providing hope for a quick resolution; making themselves available every day to ensure progress is known; being open and honest with the public and press when answering questions and concerns. President Trump did all of these things but was undermined by rival politicians with false information while being excoriated by the media daily. Instead of offering useful information, advice, or guidance, they worked to sabotage everything his administration accomplished every day. This only served to further divide Americans when we desperately need unity. The shameful behavior of our elected officials likely resulted in tens of thousands of Americans dying because of the confusion and discord they created.
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