April 20, 2020 | Criminal Law
It is not likely that demands for martial law because of the coronavirus would be taken seriously by any state or federal government official. Our governments are not interested in turning over control to the military. However, stories about National Guard units assisting state governments in their response to the coronavirus have led to rumors of martial law.
While there have been numerous rumors that various actions taken by local, state, and federal governments have indicated that martial law is imminent, there are no signs that the military is about to seize control. The steps taken by government officials are intended to protect the public by reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky and throughout the United States.
What is Martial Law?
Martial law occurs when military authority replaces civil institutions during a state of emergency. When martial law is instituted, it typically results in the suspension of certain civil rights. For example, the right to be free from unreasonable searches may disappear.
The military authority could restrict the right to bail or bond by suspending habeas corpus. In some cases, martial law could result in the loss of freedom of association and freedom of movement. However, we are not under martial law and do not expect to be under martial law at any time during the coronavirus outbreak.
How is the COVID-19 Response Different from Martial Law?
The State of Emergency declared by Governor Andy Beshear encouraged Kentuckians to remain “Healthy at Home.” Since the initial declaration of a State of Emergency, Governor Beshear has taken other steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 throughout Kentucky.
Some people may view those actions as restricting some civil liberties. For instance, the Governor issued an Executive Order limiting the number of shoppers permitted to enter a business to one adult member per household. Likewise, the Governor placed restrictions on out-of-state travel.
A civil institution took these actions. They were not military actions. Therefore, they do not meet the definition of martial law, even though they do restrict some rights.
The purpose of these orders is to stop the spread of a dangerous and deadly virus. They are not intended to create martial law. Martial law is far more restricting and results from the failure of civil institutions
Are the Restrictions Related to COVID-19 Permanent?
The expectation is that businesses, schools, and other facilities will reopen as soon as possible. However, many government officials and health experts warn that reopening too soon could result in a resurgence of the virus.
Our state and federal governments are working to develop a plan for reopening the country that is safe and effective. News reports have indicated that Governor Beshear is working with governors from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota on a regional plan to reopen the Midwest economy.
Four of the concerns of reopening include:
- Sustained control of new cases;
- Testing and tracing ability;
- Sufficient health care capabilities; and,
- Social distancing in the workplace.
Therefore, it is difficult to know when restrictions may be lifted, and things will return to normal. Until that time, taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 remains a priority for all Kentuckians. Staying safe and avoiding situations that increase the risk of exposure remains a top priority.
How can you Stay Safe During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Following the orders and directives from state and federal officials reduces the risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Practicing social distancing, staying at home, and disinfecting surfaces are other ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds numerous times throughout the day.
Other ways that you can stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious foods, getting plenty of rest, and exercising.
- Try to take breaks from the coronavirus coverage. Listening to the continuous COVID-19 coverage can increase anxiety and stress.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. Staying at home as much as possible is the best way to avoid individuals who might have COVID-19.
- If you experience any symptoms of the coronavirus, contact your health provider immediately for further instructions.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth mask. This mask does not prevent you from getting the virus, but it does help prevent you from spreading the virus.
- When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash immediately.
COVID-19 has changed our way of living temporarily. It may have created a social, health, and financial crisis. However, it has not caused martial law to replace our system of government.