The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people live, but it has also started to change the way officials handle a crisis.
The changes that Americans face are the most sweeping and wide-scale since WWII. While most states have embraced more obvious tactics such as state-wide lockdowns, some have gone a step further.
Here are a selection of some of the more extreme measures governments have taken to help combat the pandemic.
Kentucky, Mississippi cops ticket church attendees to force additional quarantines
On Friday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear warned that anyone attending a church service would have to quarantine for an additional 14 days.
Knowing that not everyone might adhere to his warning, Beshear has ordered police to go through church parking lots and write down the license plate numbers for any of the attendees. Police will then provide the information to health departments, which will enforce quarantines.
“I hear people say, ‘It’s my choice,’” Beshear said. “Well, it’s not the person next to you’s choice … This is the only way that we can ensure that your decision doesn’t kill somebody else, that your decision doesn’t spread the coronavirus in your county and in your community.”
Sen. Paul Rand has said that the governor “needs to take a step back.”
However, U.S District Judge Justin Walker sided with the church just a day later, saying that Kentucky’s largest city cannot halt the local church’s drive-in service.
He said the city is prohibited from “enforcing; attempting to enforce; threatening to enforce; or otherwise requiring compliance with any prohibition on drive-in church services at On Fire.”
“On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” Walker wrote in his sternly worded 20-page opinion. “That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion.”
But Kentucky is not the only state to worry about Sunday mass spreading the virus.
Mississippi has gone so far as to ticket anyone who attends a church drive-in, despite the attendees staying in their cars with windows up the entire time. The church has sued the city of Greenville for fining every attendee $500.
“Government is clearly overstepping its authority when it singles out churches for punishment, especially in a ridiculous fashion like this,” said Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Ryan Tucker.
North Carolina, Rhode Island try to keep out-of-state residents away
On Tuesday, homeowners in the Outer Banks area of North Carolina filed a lawsuit after officials blocked them from accessing their vacation homes.
The Outer Banks is a popular vacation spot, with many out-of-state residents owning a second home along the beach. Local officials have required either a North Carolina driver’s license or a proof of permanent residence in order to access the area, though.
A group of homeowners believe that such restrictions violate their constitutional rights to be treated as citizens of the state, citing the “Privileges and Immunities” clause of the U.S. Constitution.
New York likewise considered suing Rhode Island after Gov. Cuomo learned that Rhode Island was sending police door-to-door to enforce quarantine on any New Yorkers in residence.
“I understand the goal … but there’s a point of absurdity, and I think what Rhode Island did is at that point of absurdity,” said Cuomo. “We have to keep the ideas and the policies we implement positive rather than reactionary and emotional.”
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo defended the policy, doubling down on its importance.
“I want to be crystal clear about this: If you’re coming to Rhode Island from New York you are ordered into quarantine,” she said. “The reason for that is because more than half of the cases of coronavirus in America are in New York.”
Florida, New Jersey using drones to break up gatherings
Earlier this week, both Florida and New Jersey announced that they would use drones to locate and break up any gatherings in violation of social distancing mandates.
In Elizabeth, NJ, police clarified that the drones had a singular function and would not be able to record or take pictures: it would merely play a pre-recorded message demanding anyone in the area disperse.
The announcement predictably caused a significant outcry over privacy concerns, but the police reiterated that they “are just trying to save lives, not trying to be big brother.”
Police in Daytona, FL explained that the drones are meant to help keep police safe.
“We need something where we can start bridging that gap a little bit… coming face-to-face with you, to me getting the message to you remotely,” Sgt. Tim Ehrenkaufer told FOX35.
The Daytona drones are equipped with a FLIR system that can detect body temperatures with a fever – any temperature between 99-105 degrees.
Michigan bans visits between friends and family
As Michigan becomes the third-most infected state in the country, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended both the state’s stay-at-home order’s duration as well as its conditions.
The order, which now will remain in effect until May 1, now prohibits “All public and private gatherings of any size.”
Some exceptions to the order — which takes effect today — are caring for a relative or their pet, a child, an elderly or disabled person, visiting someone in a health care facility, or attending a funeral with fewer than 10 people.
“We must continue to do everything we can to slow the spread and protect our families,” Whitmer said in a statement, according to Detroit’s WXYZ-TV.
Residents may visit a home outside of the state or return to Michigan from another state or drive to a Michigan state park, the Free Press reported.
Philadelphia forcibly removes bus riders without masks
Friday, a video showing police dragging a Philadelphia resident off the bus went viral. The man was removed for not wearing a mask, violating the Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Authority’s mandate.
Police initially responded to “calls of a disturbance” after the passenger was repeatedly asked to leave the bus and refused.
“I want to be very clear the police were not responding to social distancing complaint,” said Brian Abernathy, Managing Director. “Police were responding to the fact that the person was asked to leave and refused.”
A SEPTA spokesperson spoke with FOX 29, stating that the agency does not want its policies to incite conflict or disrupt service.
The initial mandate has been reversed after the video stirred up negative publicity.
SEPTA is now simply “strongly encouraging” passengers wear protective masks and gloves.
Alabama, Massachusetts reporting addresses of corona-positive patients to police
When the pandemic started, Americans hesitated to go to the doctor for fear of the cost they might incur. Now, they might hesitate because healthcare workers are reporting their addresses to police.
According to a Vice News report, Alabama started to report the information at the end of March. Alabama provides the addresses – but not the names – of individuals who have tested positive for the virus.
“It’s only on an as-known, as-needed basis,” said Leah Missildine, executive director of Alabama’s 911 Board. “The impetus behind this is to protect first responders because 9-1-1 receives the information and coordinates the response of first responders. That was deemed the most efficient way to share this information.”
The Masschusetts order went into effect March 18, stating that the information could not be retained beyond the state of emergency. Again, Massachusetts shares the addresses, but not the names, of individuals who test positive.
Privacy advocacy groups argue that the measure is outdated and violates privacy.
“It’s based on an early and mistaken idea that the disease was only spread by people who were obviously symptomatic,” said Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights. “We now know that that’s wrong, so it makes no sense. Everybody should act in a careful, social distancing way to interact with anybody’s door they have to knock on.”