It’s clear now that the Commonwealth and the country are facing a public health crisis. The federal government and state governments alike have been scrambling to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now claimed the lives of over 60 people in America, with at least 3,600 cases confirmed.
In Massachusetts, there are over 150 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and that number will inevitably grow—health experts have warned that up to 60% of the population will contract the coronavirus. In light of these staggering numbers, it’s imperative that we all play our part to respond to this crisis in the spirit of shared action and solidarity, in order to protect the most vulnerable among us.
The ACLU of Massachusetts believes that any coronavirus response should be grounded in science and public health, and not be politicized. Epidemiologists have issued clear recommendations that institutions and ordinary people can follow to flatten the curve of infection and reduce the immediate burden on state and local healthcare facilities. The ACLU supports these measures fully.
However, it is essential that government officials help to ensure a response plan that protects the health, safety, and civil liberties of all. To that end, the ACLU of Massachusetts released recommendations that government officials and other decisionmakers must consider in order to achieve a fair and effective response to COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.
Above all, the ACLU believes that government officials must encourage voluntary compliance. Public health and legal experts agree: Voluntary self-isolation measures are more likely to induce cooperation—and thus be effective—than coercive measures.
Therefore, in the spirit of public health and voluntary compliance, the ACLU of Massachusetts is taking the following measures in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. Until further notice:
- All staff have been asked to stay home and work remotely to the best of their abilities
- All in-person meetings have been moved to phone and video conferencing
- All in-person campaign events have been postponed or cancelled
- All volunteer trainings, where possible, have been moved to online video conferences
- The office is no longer accepting in-person requests for legal assistance. If you believe your civil rights or civil liberties have been violated, please contact us via phone or email.
The ACLU recognizes that not every organization can take these steps, which is why we have called upon employers and the state government to ensure that people are protected from job loss and economic hardship. In order to encourage all people to cooperate with health officials and public health guidelines, the government and employers must provide social and economic support including guaranteed paid family and medical leave policies and income support for all workers who need it.
Even as day-to-day operations are altered dramatically, the ACLU of Massachusetts will continue its essential advocacy work. In times of crisis, it’s more important than ever to ensure that civil rights and civil liberties are protected. The ACLU will remain vigilant for any abuse by local or state authorities—especially those who interact with people who are undocumented, incarcerated or experiencing homelessness.
We will keep partners and supporters updated as the situation evolves. For now, please join us in following the expert advice and stay home if you can.