Beginning in March 2020, the American people experienced the greatest peacetime intrusion on personal liberty in history during the COVID-19 pandemic. Americans were told they couldn’t go to work if they were not “essential”; they couldn’t go to church; their children couldn’t go to school; and they had to wear masks in all indoor and outdoor public spaces.
Local and state governments promptly shut down churches, schools and businesses – some kept casinos, pot shops and liquor stores open. Virtue was prohibited; vice was permitted.
Mothers were arrested for taking their children to parks. Pastors were arrested and fined for holding church services. Paddle Boarders were arrested for being out on the water – alone. Over 110,000 businesses closed permanently due to lockdown orders.
In 2021, the federal government attempted to force 84 million workers to get an experimental COVID-19 shot – or lose their job. The federal government also used the pandemic as a pretext to cancel up to $373 billion in student loans. On both counts, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and disallowed the government’s actions.
Other local governments attempted to enact “vaccine passports”; individuals had to “show their papers” to eat, work out, worship, attend college, and shop for groceries.
Nothing like this had ever happened before in the United States (or any country, for that matter).
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito nicely summarized the government’s actions in 2020: “The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty. We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”
Justice Alito added,
Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can do much to help it.
As a result of the great infringement upon basic freedoms Americans experienced during the pandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis petitioned the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 13, 2022 for a statewide grand jury to “investigate crimes and wrongdoing committed against Floridians related to the COVID-19 vaccine.”
On Dec. 22, 2022, the Florida Supreme Court created the 22nd Statewide Grand Jury to investigate whether “pharmaceutical manufacturers (and their executive officers) and other medical associations or organizations” engaged in “criminal activity or wrongdoing” related to the “development, approval or marketing of COVID-19 vaccines.”
On Feb. 2, 2024, the grand jury released their first interim report, which addressed numerous issues – including lockdowns and the efficacy of masking.
According to the governor’s office, the grand jury’s investigation was stymied by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Army, which refused to provide representatives to testify before the jury.
Here are some of the report’s most important findings.
Regarding lockdowns, the grand jury concluded,
Lockdowns were not a good trade. Comparative data showed that jurisdictions that held to them tended to end up with higher overall excess mortality. This is especially evident when compared to jurisdictions that targeted their protective efforts towards the highest-risk groups instead of mandating large-scale, extended periods of quarantine for everyone.
On masking, the grand jury reported,
We have never had sound evidence of their effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 transmission. … There have always been legitimate questions around the impracticality of individual adherence to mask recommendations, but once it became clear that the primary transmission vector of SARS-CoV-2 was via aerosol, their potential efficacy was further diminished.
Public health agencies failed to adequately explain this important distinction to the American public in favor of a broad mask recommendation that did not make nearly enough distinction between the types of masks available and put at risk those it sought to help.
On collateral consequences of lockdowns:
Somehow, because of panic, hubris, ineptitude or some unfortunate combination of the three, this widely rejected idea [society-wide lockdowns] not only made its way back into scientific discourse in 2020, it became the law of the land in most of the United States between 2020 and 2022. It is clear to this Grand Jury that whatever benefits inured from these mandates, they were not worth the price.
Despite these findings, the grand jury’s work is not yet complete.
“There are still many months and much more testimony and evidence to come before our work will be finished,” the grand jury said in its report. “The issue we have been asked to examine is different from prior statewide grand juries in that it obviously affects people all over the United States – and perhaps the world – in much the same way as it affects citizens of the State of Florida.”
After an investigation, a Florida statewide grand jury may issue indictments (subjecting individuals or organizations to criminal prosecution) and presentments (addressing issues of great public importance, but without any legal consequences).
It remains to be seen what further presentments – and possible indictments – the grand jury will issue.
Whatever the grand jury’s decision, it’s clear the American people should never tolerate the onerous government restrictions, infringements upon religious liberty and prohibitions of basic freedoms that we all experienced in 2020 ever again.
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Photo from Getty Images.