Opinion: Resist the authoritarian response to the coronavirus

Governments with authoritarian tendencies will always overstep in times of mass fear. Don’t let them.

By Dan Werb

Public health officials escorted by armed police through the epicenter of an outbreak. Government officials, in an effort to contain an epidemic, announcing rules forcing people off the streets. City residents fearing for their lives as a new virus kills the frail and infirm among them. That same fear leads to widespread support for draconian public health measures as long as they keep people safe.

The spread of the coronavirus has reminded us of the darker side of epidemic control. These kinds of “security-forward” responses are among the most common ways we deal with epidemics. While the COVID-19 epidemic has made these scenes familiar to us all, the above description applies just as well to the disease epicenter of Wuhan, China, as it does to how authorities right here in the US have responded to both real and perceived local epidemics.

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