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Live Mic: How far can government go to stop coronavirus pandemic?

Residents of Woodland Hills, with the help of volunteers from all over the state, pile up sandbags in preparation for the flood. September 30, 2018. (KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — Self-quarantine, shelter in place, shut down all dine-in establishments, schools, and universities. Don’t forget–no congregating in groups larger than 10 people.

All good advice to stop the spread of a contagion, but how far is too far under the Constitution?

Lee Lonsberry pointed out that some directives handed down from the federal, state and local governments include the words “advise,” “recommend,” “suggest,” “voluntary,” etc. but exclude the words “compulsory,” “mandatory,” “required,” etc.

Utah counties, Daggett, Duchesne, and Uintah were advising residents to restrict all non-essential travel outside their community, but they weren’t enforcing restrictions.

“In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state, we are asking residents to strongly reconsider any recreational, leisure, and non-essential work-related travel that will take them outside of our communities,” TriCounty Health Officer Jordan Mathis said.

Related: Travel advisory for Utah counties

Voluntary vs. Mandatory

On his show Live Mic, Lee Lonsberry spoke with Derek Monson, vice president of policy at the Sutherland Institute, about just how far the government can go to impose limits on individuals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lee asked Monson what he thought of the government using a voluntary approach to stop the spread of COVID-19 instead of imposing mandatory measures.

“It’s a hopeful sign that the system is working,” Monson said. “We’re not China where it’s expected that the government is going to come in and just take over everything. It’s America where we actually like to cooperate together in a private, voluntary way.

“Our system is set up…to work with people, rather than imposing our will upon them. And help people figure this out in a voluntary way that actually leads to the kind of solutions we need,” Monson continued.

When it is a voluntary action, people tend to cooperate and help each other out, Monson said.

“I agree one-hundred percent,” Lee replied.

Give someone the opportunity to be a partner, instead of an adversary, grants a person a sense of ownership for the success, Lee said.

“If you’re told to do something, because you felt compelled to do it, then you don’t have a sense of responsibility for the outcome,” Lee said.

“That’s right,” Monson responded. “It actually creates the hope that we can do more above and beyond what the bare minimum might be.”

People do more volunteering in a partnership with government, instead of being compelled to do something by the force of government, Monson said.

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app