The coronavirus — known officially as COVID-19 — has made a mess of our normal, routine lives.

Professional basketball, soccer, hockey and baseball leagues have suspended their seasons. The NCAA has cancelled March Madness and all spring sports. Even NASCAR has banned fans from their next two race weekends, one in Homestead/Miami and the other in Atlanta. Even Disneyland and Disney World have closed. That’s okay. Organizations can make decisions about their own affairs and deal with the costs of those decisions.

The White House, Pentagon and U.S. Capitol have suspended public tours, and the Capitol is closed to everyone other than “members, staff and official business visitors.” Government agencies and private corporations have shifted to telecommuting, and at least 90 major universities have either gone to online classes or closed outright. These disruptions have caused the stock market to go crazy, hurting many retirees and pension funds. President Donald Trump banned a large segment of foreign travel. Airline stocks plummeting, taxi companies, hotels and restaurants are struggling to offset the resulting losses to their businesses.

Even industries that no one considers are suffering serious financial losses. The Highland County Maple Festival has been “postponed indefinitely.” This means no tourists and few sales of their fresh local maple syrup. Readers could help these folks by ordering maple syrup online (email to inquire about getting some of this tasty condiment and helping some great folks survive an economic catastrophe over which they have no control).

The World Health Organization has declared that COVID-19 is a pandemic, an epidemic that has gone world-wide. Undue panic has also spread around the world. When manipulated by the main stream media, the word “pandemic” causes people to run about like chickens with their heads cut off. The media seem to be taking their cues from the communist Chinese, who have begun a major PR blitz to blame COVID-19 on the U.S. — which is totally bogus.

Coronavirus is serious. It causes some people to get sick enough to die. But the same WHO that declared coronavirus a pandemic also says that 80% of those who get it will experience “mild symptoms.” COVID-19 is just that: a form of flu, albeit one whose media footprint has (if you’ll pardon the pun) gone viral. A friend of mine disagrees with me. He says coronavirus spreads faster than ordinary flu and everyone will get it eventually. He fears that hospitals will be overwhelmed. He claims it takes more than just washing hands and disinfecting common use surfaces like doorknobs and light switches. That’s why my friend supports cancelling events with large crowds.

But shutting everything down for a month has serious and long-lasting consequences that must also be considered. If you close schools, what do you do with the children whose parents work in health care? What do you do for the kids whose only meal of the day comes from the school cafeteria? What about hourly workers who have no income if they don’t work? What do you do when the entire economy tanks because people are afraid of getting a flu from which almost everyone will recover?

And how much control do we want the government to have over our lives? Mandatory quarantine is equivalent to house arrest. At one time, people would be considerate of the health of others without being commanded to do so by the government. We appear to be sprinting toward government control of our lives. And it is hidden under the umbrella of COVID-19. Gov. Ralph Northam has just banned gatherings of more than 100 people. Friends, that is a violation of our First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble.” It’s one thing for the government to close its own buildings and agencies. Private citizens also have a right to determine when and where they will assemble. Under no circumstances does the government have the right to control private gatherings of citizens.

We are losing our freedoms because we are blinded by wide-spread fear of something bad happening. Bad things happen. You can’t stop them. It’s called life. But allowing that fear to blind us to our loss of freedom is a far worse result than getting coronavirus. You can mitigate illness. Keep your hands and common-use surfaces clean. Be smart. Eat healthy. (Too much sugar weakens your immune system, as does fear, stress and lack of sleep.) If you start to feel bad, curl up at home with a good book and a large mug of hot, chicken soup. Stay there till you’re well.

But for the governor to start ordering us around like peons is unconscionable. Our founding fathers suffered illness and war and loss of property and even life for the sake of our freedoms. Will we sell out those freedoms in return for false security? Freedom is too costly a possession to sell, and security provided by the government is a bad check.

Steve “Doc” Troxel, who lives in Lynchburg, is a columnist for The News Virginian. He is a retired university professor who writes a weekly email on political issues. To subscribe to his email, contact him at His column is published every other Monday.

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