DOJ Challenges States With Stay Home Orders 'Disturbingly Close To House Arrest'
Washington, DC – Attorney General William Barr said that some governors’ stay-at-home orders are quickly reaching the point of becoming “house arrest.”
During an interview on Tuesday, Barr noted that sweeping shutdowns were necessary to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but that states must be careful about going too far with their restrictions, NBC News reported.
"There are very, very burdensome impingements on liberty and we adopted them for the limited purpose of slowing down the spread,” the attorney general explained. “We didn't adopt them as the comprehensive way of dealing with this disease.”
Barr said that the efforts have paid off, and that it is time to narrow the focus with regards to handling the ongoing pandemic.
“We are now seeing that these are bending the curve, and we have to come up with more targeted approaches,” he explained, according to NBC News.
Barr also noted that governors need to be careful about meddling with interstate business, which actually falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Business shutdowns that interfere with interstate commerce could result in the Department of Justice (DOJ) throwing its support behind lawsuits that challenge restrictions imposed by states, NBC News reported.
"We're looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place, and if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them,” Barr said, according to NPR.
“And if they're not and people bring lawsuits, we file statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs,” he added.
Barr referred to stay-at-home orders as being “disturbingly close to house arrest," NBC News reported.
“I’m not saying it wasn’t justified,” he reiterated, according to NPR. “I’m not saying in some places it might still be justified. But it’s very onerous, as is shutting down your livelihood.”
The attorney general likened the response to the COVID-19 pandemic to treating someone who has cancer, NBC News reported.
Although chemotherapy may be necessary early on, more targeted treatments may be most beneficial over time.
"Now is the time that we have to start looking ahead and adjusting to more targeted therapies," Barr said.
He also backed President Donald Trump’s assertion that the effects the coronavirus is having on specific cities and states should dictate how and when restrictions in those locations should be lifted, NBC News reported.
"I think the President's guidance has been, as I say, superb and very commonsensical, and I think a lot of the governors are following that," he said, according to NPR. "And you know, to the extent that governors don't and impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce, our common market that we have here, then we'll have to address that."
As of Wednesday, 831,283 Americans have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and 46,013 have died, according to Bing’s COVID-19 Tracker.