COVID-19: Block the “Emergency” to “New Normal” Pipeline

CDC COVID-19 Checklist for Face Coverings Do's and Don'ts. Public Domain.
CDC COVID-19 Checklist for Face Coverings Do’s and Don’ts. Public Domain.

In mid-July, the Biden administration extended a January 2020 COVID-19 “public health emergency” declaration  through mid-October of this year. An administration official justifies the renewal of the “emergency” declaration because it “continues to provide us with tools and authorities needed to respond” to  the virus.

But COVID-19 is no longer a “pandemic.” It’s become “endemic,” like the flu or the common cold. The latest variant of “concern,” BA.5, continues to follow the usual path of viral evolution, becoming more contagious but less deadly. While cases are increasing, hospitalizations and deaths remain near low points since this thing began.

And yet around the country, at all levels of government, we see which “tools and authorities” remain in vogue: Mask mandates and “advisories” are sprouting back up.

At this point, however, our masters are fresh out of true “public health” excuses for such mandates.

The state of “the science” on masking as of the beginning of the pandemic was summed up by NIAID director Anthony Fauci: “[T]here’s no reason to be walking around with a mask …. wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet. But it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is.”

Despite herculean efforts on the part of “public health” advocates to make science conform with the politically motivated desire to mandate masking over the last two years, the actual science remains the same. There wasn’t good evidence that masking reduces the spread of viral disease as of early 2020. There’s no such evidence now.

So, why the continued fascination with mask mandates?

Hanlon’s Razor — “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” —  tempt as an explanation, but it’s unsatisfactory. Government “experts” have access to the same peer-reviewed scientific studies the rest of us do. In fact, they largely funded those very studies. They know that the evidence for masking is about as good as the evidence for lucky rabbit’s feet or St. Christopher medals.

The next best explanation is that for any issue, politicians and bureaucrats always feel the need to “do something,” whether that something works or not. Mask mandates are “something.”

But now that the COVID-19 “issue” is fading into  just another endemic condition that kills a few and produces minor, if any, illness in most, a third explanation makes the most sense:

It’s about power. Our rulers seized a lot of it using the pandemic as an excuse, and they don’t want to give it up.

We’re still taking off our shoes in airport lines on command more than 20 years after Richard Reid’s unsuccessful attempt to blow up a plane.

If the political class has its way, we’ll still be donning ceremonial headgear on command 20 years from now.

If the Biden administration won’t shut this “emergency” nonsense down in law, Americans should shut it down in action. It’s time to take back the powers we let government seize, and then some. Resist the “new normal” they’re trying to foist on us.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Pay Attention to That Woman Behind the Voting Booth Curtain

L. Frank Baum and Walt McDougall illustration- 1904
Oz creator L. Frank Baum isn’t the only one to keep an eye on Kansas from afar. Public domain.

“What’s the matter with Kansas?” is a question sure to be asked whether or not the state’s voters decide to ratify Value Them Both on August 2.

The proposed amendment would overturn the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court verdict Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt, which Kansas Reflector reporter Allison Kite notes was something of “a state-level Roe.” While among other restraints, “patients seeking abortions must sit through waiting periods and efforts to persuade them against the procedure,” it did reliably guarantee a baseline of access. Though the result was far from laissez-faire, let alone opponents’ fever dreams of state-subsidized abortion on demand, removing it would set the stage for efforts at more restrictive policies up to a near-total ban.

In 2018, Eric Flint took a break from writing an alternate history of the 1630s to foresee that an impending repeal of Roe would not only unleash immediate moves to restrict abortion in “15 to 20 states” but that an equal number would “immediately liberalize abortion back to where it was decades ago before the right succeeded in chipping away at it.” Flint added that the steady liberalization of views on abortion in urban centers nationwide would give the pro-choice side an advantage beyond the relatively even divide between the two at the state level.

A decisive popular veto of Value Them Both would not only reaffirm the right of abortion for Kansans (and for the Missourians who account for nearly half of the abortions in their neighboring state).  It could serve as a model for state-level Roes in other contested states. So could a backlash if Value Them Both’s passing proves to be against the tide of public opinion.

The Garrison Center’s Thomas L. Knapp has noted (“Abortion: No, Dobbs Isn’t ‘Decentralization’,” June 25) that “decisions concerning abortion were largely decentralized to the lowest possible level, that of individual choice … such decisions are now largely centralized into the hands of state legislatures.”

The outcome of Kansas’s referendum could revive Roe‘s decentralization of choice to the individual by decentralizing it to the states.  Then Dorothy and her little fetus too won’t have to travel to Oz.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Pay attention to that woman behind the voting booth curtain” by Joel Schlosberg, Argus Observer [Ontario, Oregon], July 24, 2022

The Constitution versus “Independent State Legislature” Theory

Map of the Electoral College for the 2024 United States presidential election. Graphic by Chessrat. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Map of the Electoral College for the 2024 United States presidential election. Graphic by Chessrat. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Democrats, the Cato Institute’s Andy Craig points out at The Daily Beast, are trafficking in panic over an upcoming Supreme Court case, Moore v. Harper.

While the case is nominally about who gets to decide whether newly drawn political district lines pass constitutional muster,  its particulars intersect with controversy over something called the “independent state legislature doctrine,” and therefore with disgraced former president Donald Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election using slates of fake “alternate electors” to replace the real ones.

If the Court gets this wrong, the Democratic Party line goes, state legislative majorities can just throw out presidential election results that don’t go their party’s way, and instead appoint presidential electors who support their preferred candidates.

Craig’s case against the panic is solid: While the US Constitution does say that “[e]ach State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors,” it also provides that “Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors.” That time is “election day,” currently set by federal law as the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Once that election has been held, the electors have been chosen. No backsies. If a state legislature wants to choose electors in some other way, it has to act BEFORE the election rather than in a fit of pique afterward.

There is, however, a larger issue with the “independent state legislature” doctrine, and that issue is whether state constitutions (and state court rulings under those constitutions) may in any way constrain a legislature’s power to “direct” the “manner” of choosing electors.

Could, for example, the Florida Senate and Representatives just unilaterally decide to choose its presidential electors based on the outcome of a bipartisan game of strip poker, where each hand is worth an elector in addition to a discarded pair of boxer briefs?

The answer is no.

Florida’s state constitution specifies the manner of choosing electors, and Florida’s legislature is bound by that constitution.

Where federal jurisdiction is concerned, another part of the Constitution is worth looking at. Article IV, section 4 specifies that “[t]he United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

While we could argue over precisely what constitutes a “republican form of government,” a lawless legislature, declaring itself unbound by the votes of the electorate and the constitution which empowers it to govern, clearly doesn’t meet the standard.

Neither would a military junta which used the Texas Army National Guard to seize control of Austin, or a crank who declared himself emperor of New Hampshire from his Manchester apartment.

State legislatures may only “direct” the way electors are chosen within the strictures set by their states’ constitutions, and they can’t retroactively change those procedures after the date set by Congress for an election.

It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court will use Moore v. Harper to void the US Constitution, state constitutions, and its own power to enforce the “republican form of government” clause.

So don’t panic. Yet.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.