Zombie films should teach New York

By BenitaZepeda

Imagine Chicago in a complete state of disarray and chaos. Thousands of people are infected with a virus doctors can’t recognize or identify. Citizens fearfully camp out in their homes while others loot stores and run through the streets, breaking windows and savagely trying to find a way to survive. Laws don’t exist, and the government is at a loss to regain control. In this state, how would order be created again? Could it be created again?

Government officials in New York seem to think so. The “New York State Public Health Legal Manual” outlines what would happen in the event of a catastrophic disaster precipitating a state of chaos. It addresses what laws would apply in case of necessary quarantines, mass evacuations, terrorist attacks or a

“widespread epidemic.”

Published by the state court system and the state bar association, it’s hard to not look at this manual and think of a zombie outbreak. However, one can’t argue what N.Y. has done isn’t smart planning. It’s in place to allow officials to look at existing laws and how they would apply, not to create new ones.

As much as N.Y. tries to plan for such events, state officials forget human nature is ultimately controlled by instinct not documents and laws. Society generally follows the law because laws provide order. Without that order, survival mode will certainly

kick in.

For instance, if there were an outbreak that required a rationing of a lifesaving vaccine, it would be nice to have laws to determine who gets it, as unfair as that may seem. Outlined in the manual is an analysis to figure out how to save the greatest number of lives as opposed to caring for each individual. This would allow blatant discrimination against the elderly or disabled, creating even more problems.

Because of several scenarios, such as choosing who would get a vaccine or not, Ronald P. Younkins, chief of operations for the state court system, said in a New York Times article on Feb. 15 it was “a very grim read” and it’s “for potentially very grim situations in which difficult decisions have to be made.”

However, much of what is suggested violates fundamental freedoms. For instance, the article cites that personal homes and businesses could be used as a shelter for victims, which would violate individual property rights. It also briefly touches on how court sessions would be held in case of an outbreak, with illustrations of a judge, lawyer and court officers wearing masks. Some courthouses even have respirators already in place if this sort of thing happens.

Although it’s smart to have a contingency plan, the chances of a legal document holding up in a state of pure chaos is tough. After all, everyone is human. Just like an apocalyptic movie, laws don’t exist, alliances do.