Communication and Trust, Not ‘Punitive Measures’ Necessary to Fight Coronavirus
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
A Harvard epidemiologist says state and local governments using law enforcement to break up social gatherings will do far more harm than good.
Writing in The Atlantic, Prof. Julia Marcus says “scolding and retribution will only impede public-health efforts” to combat the coronavirus. And using police departments to enforce public health orders, and break up social gatherings, is a recipe for disaster:
Look no further than New York City to see how this will play out. When police were authorized to enforce social-distancing guidelines, nearly all the arrests were of Black and Latino residents, including several who were punched in the face or knocked unconscious by police officers. In the meantime, not a single ticket was issued in Park Slope, a wealthy and predominantly white neighborhood, despite the crowds that gathered there in Prospect Park. It’s no surprise that New York City’s contact-tracing program, a public-health tool that relies on trust, has had limited success in getting information from people who test positive, who tend to live in the very neighborhoods that have been targeted by law enforcement.
In a strategy that may produce the same results as New York City’s, Baker, the governor of Massachusetts, is calling for more intensive law enforcement in areas with the highest rates of transmission—which disproportionately include communities of color. He has also threatened to shut down parks and playgrounds in such areas. Punitive approaches like this will only drive people indoors, where the risk of transmission is greater.
Marcus says the “most effective way to promote healthy behavior during public-health emergencies is with clear communication and support, not punitive measures.”
“If officials want to help people avoid the potential harms of parties,” Marcus says, “they need to earn the public’s trust as partners who offer scientific and practical advice on how to sustain well-being in a pandemic—not as law enforcers from whom the public will want to hide.”