A Stanford University professor is being mocked for claiming he carried papers giving him permission to go to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya tweeted, “March 2020: I asked Stanford for a letter granting me permission to travel to and from my office despite shelter in place. I carried that letter every single day in my pocket for a year in case I was stopped and asked to show my papers. In the USA.”
Like most states, California implemented a stay-at-home order in March 2020 in an effort to inhibit the spread of COVID. The order ended the following January.
Many, such as essential workers, were exempt from the order, and certain businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies remained open to the public. There were a few arrests for violating such orders around the country, mostly of people who allegedly opened non-exempt businesses or held large gatherings.
While a few shared that they too had carried similar writs of passage, they were by far in the minority.
Many felt that Bhattacharya, a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, had greatly exaggerated pandemic restrictions.
Some of Bhattacharya’s toughest critics were his fellow doctors. “Do you also put onions in your socks to prevent ghost attacks or do you pick and choose which imaginary fears to dramatically share?” Dr. Ryan Marino replied.
Dr. Alastair McAlpine retorted, “No such letters were ever necessary. This is simply more elaborate fantasy.”
The mockery continued throughout the day.
“True American freedom is the liberty to invent an oppressor,” joked one Twitter user.
Some satirized Bhattacharya’s tweet.
“March 2020: I asked the village wizard for a magic charm that would protect me from dragons,” @richterscale wrote. “I carried that charm in my pocket every day for a year in case I was stopped and attacked by dragons. In the USA.”
“I did this as well with a letter (also from Stanford) saying that I was a nice friendly boy. In case I was slandered. In the USA,” @LaborPal tweeted.
On Monday afternoon, Bhattacharya hit back at his detractors.
He tweeted that Santa Clara County, where Stanford is based, issued a lockdown order in March 2020 requiring everyone except essential workers or citizens performing “essential activities” to remain in their residence and that there was “police enforcement by checking papers.”
“Gaslighting lockdown apologists are out in force,” he also said.
Police may have had the authority to check papers and detain people as Bhattacharya asserts, but it’s not clear to what extent, if any, they used it in Santa Clara County.
In March 2020, Eddie Garcia, who was chief of police in San Jose, which is in Santa Clara County, told the Police Executive Research Forum that he’d instructed officers not to arrest people for violating the lockdown order.
“I put out a memo yesterday saying we are NOT to use the lockdown ordinance as a sole cause of probable cause for a detention, to make sure we won’t use that tool in a way that wasn’t intended,” Garcia said.