To reopen or stay home?

Published 3:53 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2020

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There’s no question about it — the statewide stay-at-home order, business closures and other government-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 are decidedly getting old.

It’s been about three and a half weeks since North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s sweeping executive order to stay home went into effect. It’s been more than a month since schools were closed statewide, a precaution that will remain in effect until at least May 15. It’s also going on a month since restaurants were closed to dine-in services and about four weeks since businesses such as hair salons and movie theaters were ordered to close.

Whether one agrees with these measures or not, there’s also no question that the state government’s response has become a political flashpoint for North Carolinians. It’s become an issue with strong opinions on either side, opinions that have found a voice in two opposing factions.

On the one hand, a movement of North Carolinians called Reopen NC is urging state leaders to rescind the stay-at-home order by the end of April. The group boasts about 61,000 members on Facebook and has vowed to protest in Raleigh every Tuesday until the restrictions are lifted.

In the opposite corner, another group called Stay Home NC supports reopening slowly, and in phases, but only when scientists and data trends indicate it is safe to do so. They also argue that there should be a plan in place to bring back some restrictions if cases begin to climb again.

While the two groups seem diametrically opposed, both raise fair points. Yes, we should be concerned with the limits of government authority and the economic fallout of this disaster. Yes, we should also be taking this virus seriously and doing our part to prevent its spread by reducing public outings and physical interactions with other people.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you must pick a side. You can be concerned about public health, the economy and how much power the government has. In fact, we should all be thinking about those three things right now.

The problem with this situation, and much of the American conversation in general, is our amazing inability to consider things from another point of view, or to recognize that not everything falls into neat little packages of right and wrong. Instead, we tend to tribalize and get locked into our own little echo chambers that reinforce our own beliefs, to the detriment of any other.

So please, by all means, be concerned. Be concerned that someone you know or love could become a victim of COVID-19. Be concerned that your favorite local restaurant or small business might not make it through this. Be concerned about government overreach.

But instead of panicking and worrying about those things incessantly, think about ways you can prevent those things from happening — by staying home, supporting local people, and businesses, however you can and voicing your dissent in a patriotic, yet sensible way. None of those require a drive to Raleigh.