On March 18, Governor Mike DeWine (R-OH), tweeted out a good and valid public-health suggestion—employers should monitor employees for fever:
We are asking businesses–beginning immediately—to take the temperature of every single employee every day before they come to work. We’re asking them to be aggressive in regard to cleaning surfaces and having soap/hand sanitizer available. Send employees home who are sick.
DeWine’s suggestion is, of course, a variation on the age-old idea of a quarantine. And yet his suggestion of bringing the logic of quarantine to the workplace is doubly powerful, because it offers the opportunity to bring legal, as well as medical, order to that large fraction of American life, the workplace.
Quarantine: A Time-Tested Idea
Yet with any virus, notorious or not, the most basic of wisdom says that we maximize our health by staying apart from it. That is, we create walls, or barriers, of one kind another, by washing our hands, wearing face masks—and staying away from infected people.
This is basic biology. The essential of physical separation and protection from harm are why cells have membranes, animals have fur or shells, and people have skin.
It’s also basic human nature. The same ideas of separation and protection explain why people have been wise to build walls, and roofs, and to put things in containers. And more recently, individuals and institutions have learned that they must protect their computers and networks from new kinds of viruses, as well as other cyber-pathogens.
Way back on January 31, President Trump issued a “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus.” As Trump put it,
Given the importance of protecting persons within the United States from the threat of this harmful communicable disease, I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
Trump also added that, “where appropriate,” the U.S. would impose “quarantine.”
Yes, quarantine. It’s not a PC word, merely a life-saving concept. It comes from the Italian words quaranta giorni, meaning, “forty days.” That is, the Venetians of yore had a rule: During times of plague, visitors had to spend nearly six weeks in isolation, to make sure that they weren’t carrying a killer into Venice. And of course, there was no point in imposing a quarantine on some visitors and not others—and so the Venetians made sure that strangers didn’t come into their city without being properly vetted.
Indeed, a good overview on the overall effectiveness of quarantines was found in a 2013 article in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, headlined, “Lessons from the History of Quarantine, from Plague to Influenza A.”
In the new millennium, the centuries-old strategy of quarantine is becoming a powerful component of the public health response to emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. During the 2003 pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome, the use of quarantine, border controls, contact tracing, and surveillance proved effective in containing the global threat in just over 3 months. For centuries, these practices have been the cornerstone of organized responses to infectious disease outbreaks.
In other words, quarantines get the job done. And yet, Tognotti added, new political pressures—those aforementioned forces of political correctness—are attacking the quarantine idea, because it’s so un-PC:
However, the use of quarantine and other measures for controlling epidemic diseases has always been controversial because such strategies raise political, ethical, and socioeconomic issues and require a careful balance between public interest and individual rights. In a globalized world that is becoming ever more vulnerable to communicable diseases, a historical perspective can help clarify the use and implications of a still-valid public health strategy.
In other words, Tognotti is saying, a quarantine might not be PC, but it’s still a good idea. And so today, the U.S. needs to know about the people coming here, however they get here, be it by airplane, boat, car, or foot—and many countries around the world are reaching the same conclusion. Yes to border controls and quarantine.
Moreover, we can quickly see that proper health security starts to look a lot like proper border security and proper homeland security—whether it’s a virus or a terrorist, Uncle Sam needs to know what, or who, is trying to invade.
These points were made well by an early prophet in this fast-moving pandemic, Lew Jan Olowski, staff counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute. Way back on February 7, he wrote in The New York Daily News,
The first line of defense against coronavirus is the border. Not just figuratively. Any national border is, by definition, a literal line of defense . . . defending national borders is an essential element of any national security strategy.
Olowski was 100 percent right, of course.
Interestingly, even now, even as President Trump has escalated his response, declaring a national state of emergency, we haven’t heard much from most Democrats on the subject of border security and quarantines. Yes, we know that they don’t like Trump—although, of course, we knew that before—and yet it’s still hard to pick through exactly what they would do about infected people coming here and infecting Americans.
Indeed, Joe Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, is still supportive of open borders and a no-questions-asked stance toward “migrants”–even as Trump, just on March 18, chose to slam the border shut even harder, this setting up a key contrast for the November election. So where does that leave him on the issue of quarantines, even in times of national emergency? Inquiring minds should want to know.
In fact, we can now see that the forces of health security, border security, homeland security, and national security are all on the same side—or at least they should be—and so we should further ask: Why should we tolerate “sanctuary cities”? The issue of sanctuary cities should be defined as the protection of the public health against disease, of course, and not the ethnicity of those involved. That is, whoever you are, and wherever you’re from, the feds should want to know about your potential threat to health and good order, not your skin color or nationality.
Yes, the coronavirus is a death-blow to the anything-goes utopianism of open borders. Many of us have always known that there’re lots of good reasons why borders should be policed, including, of course, concerns about protecting jobs and wages—and now we have yet another reason to think in terms of, yes, America First.
So now let’s take a look at an idea that builds on DeWine’s tweet.
As politicos like to say, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” In terms of making needed change and getting things done, that’s often good advice, because a sense of crisis provides the energy needed to topple the old orthodoxy.
In that spirit, here’s an idea for putting the crisis of the coronavirus crisis to good use: create a Medical E-Verify. A Medical E-Verify, that is, for contagious diseases.
Most Breitbart News readers are familiar with E-Verify, an underused federal program, administered by the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, aimed at verifying the legality of employees and potential employees. It’s a great program—when it’s used. (And too often, employers don’t want to use E-Verify, but that’s a tale for another time.)
Yet now, in this crisis, we should seize the opportunity to create a Medical E-Verify, which would stipulate that all employers must verify the contagious health status of all employees. Many employers already demand drug tests, so why not a contagious virus test? To be sure, as of this writing, there aren’t enough tests to go around, but that will change soon enough. And when we have enough tests, we should use them, on an ongoing and predictable basis.
Of course, opponents will raise privacy concerns, and those must be duly considered, and yet the prospect of a mass epidemic should push us toward a no-nonsense solution that looks out, first, for public health.
In addition, there will be concerns about the cost of the program, including the cost of treatment for the afflicted already inside our borders. And here, of course, Uncle Sam should step in, because whatever the cost of treatment of an individual might be, the cost of a plague, to society, is vastly greater.
Of course, in addition, we should also be spending money on medical research, with an eye to not only treatment, but also a vaccine.
Some might claim that Medical E-Verify is “authoritarian.” But actually, it’s not authoritarian at all: it’s about order. And only the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union should think that order is the same thing as authoritarianism. In fact, good order is what makes liberty possible, to say nothing of the pursuit of happiness.
Because only if you’re not dying can you go about living.