Thursday, March 19, 2020

Wuhan Virus IV - It's Not the Virus Hammering Our Economy

Last night, I was furious.  My wife claimed our county, we are adjacent to Bexar county which contains San Antonio (Bexar), had prohibited all dining-in in restaurants.  While Bexar is huge and densely populated (1.94 million), our county is huge and mostly rural (141 thousand, with one medium size city and a bunch of suburbs).  We have no GrugHub, no DoorDash, no UberEats. The medium sized city is mostly restaurants and stores.  The people commute in to San Antonio (for the most part) for work.  I've heard that our county has one person confirmed with the Wuhan virus.

I suppose it's the 'thing to do' for mayors or county managers to close their businesses and drive them into bankruptcy.  As an article in the Washington Times said, "...amid growing signs the virus that started in Wuhan, China, will hammer the American economy."  But it's not the virus that is hammering the economy.  No businesses (except maybe the nursing home in Washington) are closing because their staff are sick and aren't showing for work or the customers are sick and are staying away.  It's the politicians and CEO's that are putting people out of work and shutting down businesses.

What I don't like is that it appears a local 'Lord on High' can declare a health emergency and tank their economy.  They don't order quarantine of the sick (it's voluntary unless you are in the ICU), order special protective isolation for those at high risk, order massive testing, or modify their local production facilities to provide more medical products and items.  No, they just order the economy shut, with the hope that the virus won't spread.

I get it that elderly and those with bad medical conditions are at risk.  Isolate them, and get them supplies.  Everyone else do social distancing and good hygiene.  If the 'Lords' see a local outbreak, take drastic measures.  But keep the economy running!

One complaint I have about a lot of actions by judges and city/county managers is that they take actions that are not supported by law.  I don't see how when all the restaurants in a county have not broken any laws, they can simply be run out of business because of fear of something that might happen.

So I went online to 'google' how a city or county can justify ordering businesses closed.  To me, it's not enough that a manager or judge thinks people are at risk.  We have a country of laws.  If the law does not allow taking a property arbitrarily (like the Constitution prohibits), they shouldn't be able to order them shut down either.

I found nothing explicitly out there to answer my question.  But I did find a Dallas (Texas) county judge's ruling that he was closing all restaurants except to take out and drive thru.  He cites a Texas Code 418.108.  That talks about disaster/emergency actions allowed by the state and counties.  Mostly it talks about situations where they have natural or man-made disasters and war.  They explicitly talk about situations with great loss of life or property or where that loss is imminent.  The code actually says county/city officers empowered to enforce emergency management, and county judges, may issue emergency declarations to allow/deny access to disaster areas.  It also talks about defining those areas.  The other actions allowed are the normal disaster support stuff.  By the way, the county judge has priority in Texas over the city/county managers.  I'm not sure why the legislature would think that wise...

But the Dallas county judge didn't define any disaster area and limit access.  He said people cannot go into any restaurant and sit down and eat. I'm talking about maybe 1,000 restaurants where there has been no evidence of Wuhan virus. What's to prevent any of these little Lords from saying you cannot go to work, or all businesses with over 10 people have to close?

I watched China lock down all of a city/province, not allowing people to leave their homes even for work.  And I thought, that cannot happen here.  Many pundits claimed we are better prepared and wouldn't need or even allow such lockdowns here in the US.  The President, rightly, has issued a National Emergency (they say 7 of those happen every year, most people don't even know about) to free up funds to use for this crisis.  And he even made a set of recommendations for social distancing and isolation.  None of which said to close small businesses or shut down restaurants.  

But the little local Lords all panicked and now we are going to tank the economy.  Not because of the virus, but because of fear.  Where are all those plaintiffs that stop every Presidential executive order at the courts?  All of them think it's okay to allow a local Lord to kill their livelihood?

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