The politics of stay-at-home orders, plus the ethics of online shopping

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A lone demonstrator holds a sign in opposition to Virginia's stay-at-home order and business closures in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak during a protest against the lockdown measures in Richmond, Virginia, U.S., April 16, 2020. Photo credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

 The coronavirus pandemic is changing the rules for both public life and private behavior. New options are challenging the president in the White House and citizens sheltered at home. 

When it comes to determining where Americans can go and which businesses can stay open, President Trump embraces it one day but passes it onto governors the next day. says, “So much of this is politics and so very little of it is law,” says professor Stephen Vladeck of the University of Texas School of Law.

While touting his own measures for social distancing and staying at home, he shows  support for those protesting his own rules. That’s about politics too, says Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and now a Yale law school lecturer. “They’re yelling and spreading their germs everywhere with no masks on, but this is the way they demonstrate their support for Trump,” she says. 

Meanwhile, many people who are hunkered down at home have turned to online shopping as a convenient and safe way to buy food and  medicine — as opposed to physically going to stores. But should they buy non-essentials online too, such as shoes, appliances, or furniture?

“There’s a realization that jobs are at stake, and that in order to ensure that few are lost as possible, online shopping is a good option for many people,” says Laura Steele, a business professor at Belfast University.

On the other hand, she knows there are risks involved in the supply chain.“What I personally am doing is trying to order from companies that have made efforts to ensure the health and safety of their workforces. But the reality is it’s not always possible to get access to that information.”




Warren Olney


Andrea Brody