Martial Law Is Reportedly On The Table In California In Order To Slow The Spread Of Coronavirus

The National Guard has been placed on alert.

Members of the 270th and 649th Military Police Companies, 49th Military Police Brigade, California Army National Guard, move into formation to respond to a civil disturbance in Los Angeles
Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza / United States Department of Defense (GPL Cropped, resized.)

The National Guard has been placed on alert.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is reportedly considering martial law as one of many options to stem the spread of coronavirus. In fact, Oakland’s KTVU-TV reports the state’s National Guard has already been placed on alert. Newsom, however, claims that the readying of the military unit is a routine step taken during times of emergencies.

California, one of the states hardest-hit by the coronavirus, is already taking extraordinary measures to attempt to control it. On Monday, multiple counties in the San Francisco Bay Area ordered residents to stay at home except for essential activities, like shopping for food and supplies, and medical appointments.

That “shelter in place” order may be extended to all of California’s counties.

Newsom may even opt to invoke martial law, a situation in which the military is, at least temporarily, granted law enforcement powers. Civil liberties, such as freedom of association and freedom of movement, could be curtailed.

So far, he’s insisting that isn’t happening — yet.

“We have the ability to do martial law… if we feel the necessity,” he said.

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 27: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) looks on as California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell (L) speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health on February 27, 2020 in Sacramento, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined State health officials to an update to the public about the state's response to the Coronavirus known as COVID-19 a day after a possible first case of person-to-person transmission was reported in Northern California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
  Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Meanwhile, in what may be an example of exceptionally bad timing, California’s National Guard has been placed on alert.

However, for now, it looks as if that deployment is for routine humanitarian aid, the type of thing the Guard does in response to other disasters, such as hurricanes. One thing the military unit may be doing, for example, is ensuring the safe and equitable distribution of food. Already, panic buying has stripped some store shelves bare, leaving some to resort to rationing certain items. If this continues, some Californians may not be able to access food without help.

Meanwhile, Newsom is taking other extraordinary steps to attempt to manage the spread of the virus in California, and to prepare for an expected crush of patients that could overwhelm the state’s healthcare system.

For example, the governer’s administration is acquiring two vacant hospitals to be able to accommodate more patients. It’s also talking with hotel operators to free up rooms that could be used to house patients, or some of the state’s homeless population, which is considerably more at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Further, with 99 percent of California’s schools closed until further notice, Newsom noted that many of California’s children might not return to school at all until the next academic year.

“It is unlikely that many of these schools, few if any, will open before the summer break,” he said.