Archived Opinion

Now we know what the COVID police will do

Now we know what the COVID police will do

I’ve had mixed feelings about the “COVID police” since the beginning of the pandemic’s lockdowns.

As governors enacted shutdown orders and the country went into lockdown in March 2020, people began asking who would enforce the laws, how stringent would punishments be?

Now we know. A Buncombe County court found the Rise ‘n Shine café owner guilty of willfully defying Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 138 prohibiting sit-down dining. The eatery opened from May 16-19, 2020, and the order was in effect until May 22, 2020. After a jury found the restaurant guilty last week, the judge ordered its owner to pay a $1,000 fine and spend one year on unsupervised probation. The case was appealed after a similar ruling from a judge in July. 

The restaurant’s lawyers argued that it was struggling to stay in business and so chose to open. It is the only business in Buncombe County taken to court for defying the state’s shutdown orders.

Remember how surreal it got back in April and May of 2020 when we’d walk down usually busy streets lined with restaurants and bars and no one was open? Owners got creative and tried all forms of carry out, but the truth is the income businesses lost and the wages lost by laid off employees won’t ever be regained.

Rise ‘n Shine, it was reported in court, was the recipient of $118,000 of the federal aid that was offered to help businesses affected by the shutdown. So, the owners took advantage of what the government offered but also defied government orders aimed at slowing the spread of the pandemic. 

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My libertarian heart sways toward the “live and let live.” I almost always disagree with laws that deny rights related to personal matters (like sexuality, for instance, and even drug use). 

As the pandemic spread, however, I was in the camp that advocated for small group gatherings, outside meetings, staying home, wearing masks, etc. For me, it was personal responsibility, doing my small part to try and slow the spread of the virus. For a society to have as many freedoms as we enjoy, citizens must also take personal responsibility for their actions. Otherwise, the system falls apart and chaos ensues.

This pandemic has been responsible for 18,463 deaths in North Carolina, 763,000 in the U.S., and 5.1 million worldwide. If more people had acted responsibly from the beginning, the death toll would not have grown so large. Now, as the economy staggers to recover from pandemic-related decisions made by the government and by businesses large and small, many likely regret some of the choices that were made very early.

As vaccine mandates have ramped up, I’ve also found myself in the middle: I think everyone should get the vaccine, but I’m not firing employees who are also friends who choose not to.

This pandemic has done plenty to divide us. It has thrown fuel on what was already a heated political divide that somehow must be tamped down. Thankfully, the COVID police aren’t brandishing debilitating punishments to businesses who defied the orders. In the end, we are all in this together, and that’s the only way we’ll find a path out.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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4 comments

  • Mark Jamison, read up on the Nuremberg Code. You might learn something. Oh and by the way, please don't forget to go ahead and take your booster shots

    posted by Hal Stroham

    Thursday, 11/18/2021

  • I'll add one more point to my earlier comment after reading Michael Gerson's recent column in the Washington Post. Mr. Gerson, a former speechwriter for George Bush, recounts our history of extreme language ultimately being used to justify political violence.
    While the term "Covid Police" is subtle it is in the vein of and mirrors more extreme language that is increasingly being thrown about by Republicans. The response to Covid is increasingly being called tyranny and worse. It is the text and subtext to comments like those of a participant in a recent Idaho town hall who asked, "When do we get to use our guns?". The comment was not made in jest but reflected the increasingly overwrought response to basic public health measures that have been accompanied by subscription to lies questioning the integrity of elections.
    I've known and read Mr. McLeod for years and I sincerely doubt he intended his framing of this to mirror the reactionary responses and actions of the American Right, but unfortunately it does. That's unfortunate and disappointing.
    I too subscribe to the ethic of " live and let live", people have a fundamental right to live their lives as they see fit. However that sentiment is bounded and limited by the idea that we respect our fellow human beings. Legitimate responses to a real public health crisis are not an existential threat our freedoms but legitimate means to live and let live.

    posted by Mark Jamison

    Thursday, 11/18/2021

  • Using the term Covid Police is not only inflammatory but entirely misses the point of basic public health measures. The consensus for several generations has been that vaccination is a basic and reasonable public health measure.
    I might agree with Mr. McLeod's stance on laws that deny rights or that are aimed largely at personal behavior but in the case of a pandemic, no man is an island and failure to adhere to basic and tested public health measures is not a purely personal decision.
    Construing the response to Covid as an infringement on some libertarian fantasy politicizes what should have been a basic common sense approach to an outbreak of a serious and deadly communicable disease.
    Had we reacted to Covid in a thoughtful way there would have been far fewer deaths and the disruption to the economy would have been less serious. Every day we are treated to new revelations about how the previous administration placed political considerations over a responsible approach to the pandemic.
    I can't disagree that the fine levied against the small business should have been moderate but the owner's actions, especially in light of the availability of relief funds can't be condoned. Moreover, the entire framing of this piece badly misses the point. As a small businessman I suppose Mr. McLeod is entitled to overlook the personal irresponsibility of employees who refuse vaccination. Whether he's being a good friend by countenancing what amounts to anti-social behavior is another thing. But it's also the nature of his business that Mr. McLeod sends unvaccinated employees into public where they are more likely to infect others. That seems less than doing "his small part".

    posted by Mark Jamison

    Wednesday, 11/17/2021

  • This was a bio weapon designed by the Chinese Communist Party with the help of that Dr. Fauci character and his Globalist buddies. Maniacal experiments in gain of function research that went sideways either by accident or on purpose. Are you listening Mr. McLeod???

    posted by Lucille Josephs

    Wednesday, 11/17/2021

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