What if stay-at-home orders had instead been stay-at-home rights?

Chantalle Dumonceaux
2 min readApr 23, 2020


  • Guidance to shut down all non-essential services; business owners have right to defy
  • Employees have right to work from home; protected from retaliation
  • Retail, restaurant, other in-person workers have right to leave of absence; can collect PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — $600 per week allocated for those unemployed due to Covid in addition to regular unemployment benefits; part of the CARES Act).

The way I see it, net we would have ended up in the same place:

  • Hosting a social gathering became taboo among my peers not because of breaking the law, but because of some mix of wanting to stop the spread and wanting to be seen as a morally upright citizen.
  • Retail, restaurant, etc were already down 90% pre shelter-in-place orders. They’d close anyway. Layoffs and furloughs would have occurred in the same way.
  • Almost all corporate events and festivals in the Summer and Fall are being cancelled although not mandated to do so. What corporate wants that PR nightmare?

A few arguments I’ve heard:

“Uneducated people wouldn’t listen to guidance only, had to be mandatory lockdown. There was no other way.”

  • We were never going to absolutely eliminate Covid with shelter-in-place orders. The level of coordination globally is impossible. The intent was to stagger hospital admissions and reduce spread, right? Similar to a financial market, there is a market for social standing and social pressure would have pushed us to a new equilibrium similar to current compliance to shelter-in-place orders. Also, as far as I’ve observed, “uneducated people” reacted just as strongly as everyone else. Anyone can understand death.

“They could make me sick and it’s wrong.”

  • You have the right to stay at home. Don’t want to get an STD? You have the right to abstain from sex or be less promiscuous. We do not have laws against sex before marriage. You don’t need everyone else to abstain from sex to eliminate STD risk, you need to abstain from sex. It is still your right to have sex before marriage whenever you can find someone who’s ready and willing.

Interested to hear why this would not have worked.