One of the reasons TSA temperature checks at airports are a bad idea is that they won’t end after the pandemic. They’ll become the new normal.
We still take off our shoes and take out liquids (without precheck) even without active threats.
Temporary restrictions on ‘dangerous’ objects that even the TSA wanted to stop searching for haven’t been able to be overcome because of perception issues, and bureaucracies are inherently conservative (not wanting to be blamed if anything bad happens, since they don’t get credit on the upside). After all, who knows when the next pandemic will be!
New York State now demands that passengers arriving in the state by air “(regardless of their state of residence or whether they have visited any of the blacklisted states) complete and sign a written declaration (Exhibit B to the complaint) about themselves, their business affairs, and their travels.” You can be arrested and fined if you do not comply.
Papers, Please worries that requirements like these could become the new normal, too, even once the pandemic has passed. That’s how this usually works.
In the current circumstances, it’s tempting to give health authorities a free pass for whatever they do, “because pandemic”. But that would be a mistake. We’ve already seen what happened when authorities were given free rein to impose new restrictions on travelers after September 11, 2001, “because terrorism”. Many of those measures had no rational relationship to the prevention of terrorism, were implemented without regard for Constitutional rights, and have become permanent, or effectively so.
How long will the current health emergency last? And will Federal, state, and local government agencies return to their prior practices at airports and borders if and when the emergency is declared to have ended, or will restrictions imposed during the pandemic become the permanent “new normal”?
Ironically these rules do not limit travel into New York from other countries where coronavirus prevalence is greater than it is in New York (and greater than in some states whose arrivals are restricted). And there are no limits on intra-state travel either as people bring the virus from one area of the state to another.
It’s not clear New York’s restrictions have value. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are now doing well, in the case of New York City the virus swept through perhaps 25% – 30% of the population already and is waning with fewer people left to infect (especially once T-cell based cross-immunity from other coronaviruses is taken into account). But other states imposed temporary restrictions earlier – that have since expired – and New York Governor Cuomo smirks at the turnabout.
Hawaii has successfully placed restrictions on arrivals, both out of a need to clamp down on the virus and antipathy towards mainland residents. While there are legal challenges to some of these rules, the ‘crisis’ allows governments to take extraordinary power.
Some of those powers may be needed, but there needs to be a high burden attached to ensuring the powers in question are directly related to the risk at hand, are as limited in scope as possible, and expire as quickly as possible. Yet some will certainly say they need data for contact tracing, that we weren’t ready this time for COVID but if we keep new requirements in place we’ll be ready next time.