Maine’s Democratic Governor Janet Mills has extended her state’s CORVID-19 stay-at-home order until May 31, though the first stage of re-opening Maine begins May 1.

Governor Mills says that Maine’s staggered reopening process will continue through August and perhaps even longer. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” Mills said in issuing the new orders.

Looking at the numbers, however, Maine would seem to be in very good shape indeed. Maine has had 1, 056 reported cases of the virus, with a reported 52 deaths.

Maine is not a densely populated state so people are living on top of each other, as is the case in hard-hit New York.

Governors like Ms. Mills and even mayors (as was notoriously the case in my hometown) have been issuing stringent orders that in normal times we would not have accepted. These are not, of course, normal times.     

And we certainly don’t want to second guess these officials, who have access to information we don’t and who want to protect the health of their citizens.

But we should also begin to worry about the civil rights aspect of these orders. It is important to emerge from this national trial stronger and with our historic freedoms intact.

Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, an associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, sounds the alarm about a “looming civil-liberties battle” occasioned by the virus restrictions. He writes in this morning’s Wall Street Journal:

The civil liberties issues raised by the Covid-19 pandemic range from the basic, such as whether government can stop you from leaving your house or opening your business, to the ludicrous, such as whether Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer can say it’s OK for you to launch your rowboat but not your motorboat (an order she has since reversed).

When a surfer in the ocean is arrested for violating stay-at-home orders in Southern California, or a father in Colorado is arrested for not social distancing while playing with his wife and child at a park, or two women in San Diego County are targeted for prosecution after organizing shutdown protests, it’s clear that something other than public health is at play.

The only reason these incidents didn’t receive sunlight commensurate with their indecency is that Covid-19-induced terror has hijacked the nation. This is a country whose deepest roots lie in the soil of liberty and freedom, values that have catalyzed the most important social and cultural movements in modern history.

Ladapo fears overreach by public officials that might be based not solely on medical concerns but on something much more alarming:  

Epidemiologic studies of the population prevalence of novel coronavirus antibodies are pointing to much higher rates of infection than previously thought—with the corollary that mortality is much lower. Surely, as fear loosens its grip—and there is evidence from that same AP-NORC poll that this is happening—these overreaches, and those still to come, will reveal themselves as more about the exercise of power than about public health.

We don’t yet know what measures will prove necessary but Dr. Ladapo urges us to think deeply before blindly adopting them. The next phase of coping with the virus affords leaders a chance to demonstrate wisdom and restraint, according to the doctor.