Michael Ryan: COVID tyranny is real. But done right, mask mandates and quarantines aren't despotic

By Michael Ryan

Is it reasonable to quarantine unvaccinated and unmasked students who've been exposed to the COVID-19 virus? You would think so.

Is it legal? It may not be, at least in Kansas. And that would be weird, not to mention foolhardy.

Yet an Olathe law firm's cease-and-desist letter warns the Gardner Edgerton school district that it's illegal under state law to single out unvaccinated students for quarantine.

Talking about someone's "vaccination status" is a bit of a euphemism. "Status" makes it sound like we're talking about one's marital or residency situation. Vaccination status is actually talking about one's ability to spread a very communicable and often deadly disease. Quarantines in the teeth of a deadly pandemic are quite in order. If they're illegal under Kansas law, then Kansas law needs to change.

The COVID-19 delta variant has gone after kids as the original strain rarely did. Not only are many ending up in the hospital, but I've interviewed a nurse who has seen young COVID survivors saying goodbye to parents dying of COVID — forever guilt ridden for having guiltlessly exposed their parents to the virus.

I actually very much appreciate the Kriegshauser Ney Law Group's attempt to hold government officials accountable. And in an actual lawsuit against the Johnson County Commission's school mask mandate on behalf of a family in Blue Valley schools, they're not trying to overturn the mandate so much as to make it better. Attorney Ryan Kriegshauser argues in the case that the county mandate, at some 295 days, is too long and not "narrowly tailored" enough. And that the mandate needs to be automatically up for review periodically as conditions change.

I have no problem with that and neither should Johnson County commissioners, nor any other Kansas City leaders. And it's comforting to know there are some checks on the government's pandemic powers around here. It's frightening, some of the COVID overreach and tyranny around the world.

Fact is, pundits on both the left and right are saying so. The Atlantic, which definitely leans left, warns in a headline this month that "Australia traded away too much liberty" in its fight against COVID. Besides draconian lockdowns and curfews and intrusive contact tracing "sometimes after a single case," the magazine writes, South Australia used a phone app to make sure returning travelers were self-quarantined. If no selfie proof of being home is forthcoming in periodic government checks, the police would be called.

"Up to now one of Earth's freest societies," The Atlantic writes, "Australia has become a hermit continent. How long can a country maintain emergency restrictions on its citizens' lives while still calling itself a liberal democracy?"

In Hong Kong, when a third mourner stopped to honor the site of a pro-democracy protester's death, a waiting cadre of a dozen police officers swooped in to enforce the two-person gathering limit.

In Michigan, the state Supreme Court felt compelled to strike down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's emergency COVID restrictions last year as an "unlawful delegation of legislative power." And I'll never forget the video of the Ohio woman being tased and dragged from a middle school football game for not wearing a mask — outdoors and socially distanced from strangers.

In Kansas, Kriegshauser teamed up with the Kansas Justice Institute last year to block the Linn County Health Department from demanding — without so much as a warrant — that all businesses turn over lists of all their visitors and patrons. The order was quickly altered to at least allow for warrants.

Meanwhile, leading liberal Bill Maher famously shredded Big Tech, in particular Facebook and Google, for having prohibited posts about the possibility of COVID-19 having emerged from a Wuhan, China laboratory — until they had to admit that it was, indeed, a possibility.

Nor did it calm fears when the Biden administration admitted in July that it was in "regular touch with the social media platforms" in order to flag "problematic posts" about COVID. Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, rightly warned that it represented an "alarming revelation of a public-private partnership to censor the speech of the American people."

And, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrogated to itself the power to prohibit evictions, now President Joe Biden's Labor Department is ordering businesses with 100 or more workers to have them vaccinated or tested weekly. Can they even do that?

So, there are real and ominous threats to civil liberties due to government overreach, well-intended or not.

I just don't think quarantining and mask-wearing are among them.

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