“What I said when I was with you that night is there are more important things than living… I don’t want to die, nobody wants to die, but man we’ve got to take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.”
– Texas Lieutenant Governor and Trump booster Dan Patrick, April 20th, 2020, a self-professed “pro-life” Republican
Donald Trump has, to date, resisted a national stay at home order regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV‑2, believing that such actions are the responsibility of state governments. So far, forty-two states plus Washington DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, five municipalities in Oklahoma (Edmond, Stillwater, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman), two municipalities in Utah (Salt Lake City and Park City) and Laramie, Wyoming have issued such orders.
A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll from April 15th found that 81% of Americans believed that the nation “should continue to [physically] distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy,” with 51% of Republicans more concerned about “the public health impact of coronavirus, including the spread of the disease which would cause more deaths,” than in restarting the economy as soon as possible.
An NBC poll from April 19th found that 58% of Americans are worried that lifting restrictions on public behavior too soon will lead to a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths. These numbers exist in the midst of tens of millions of people attempting to file unemployment claims. Donald Trump’s official policy toward reopening sectors of the economies of states suffering from coronavirus is fourteen days of declining numbers of new cases within a given state.
Such a policy requires far more testing and a far more comprehensive ability to trace discovered cases to minimize spread over time than presently exists.
Mike Pence has been urging states to perform more testing, claiming that the capacity exists within the states, but as with PPE gear for healthcare personnel, most governors are competing with the federal government with access to test equipment, swabs and even the reagent used for testing.
There also isn’t a single standard, or an agreed upon set of standards, for what constitutes an adequate test or whether tests are “one and done” or based on a continuous process over time, in relation to one’s level of activity and interaction with people outside one’s home.
However, conservative pundits have demanded that the economy be restarted independently of the state of infection within a given locale. Fox Noise Channel has floated a national reopening date of May 1st, and there has been speculation that Donald Trump may both endorse and announce it.
In support of such a move, and in response to Donald Trump’s tweets to “liberate” Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia on Friday, April 17th , and in hopes of stoking fears that the economy must matter more than public health, there have been demonstrations in almost twenty states demanding that stay at home orders be ended and that freedom of movement be reinstated.
Unlike the Tea Party demonstrations that began in early 2009, these appear to be largely uncoordinated with one another and typically low in turnout.
Hawaii saw demonstrations in their capital of less than two dozen people.
There were far more demonstrators in Redmond, Oregon (which is located near Bend and Prineville), than in the capital of Salem itself.
One of the largest protests was in Michigan, where the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund — a group linked to Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — organized and promoted the event. Between 3,000 and 4,000 protesters attended, with a thousand vehicles, in the process blocking ambulance service to a nearby hospital for entry by COVID-19 patients.
The Dorr brothers, Ben, Chris and Aaron, who manage a large number of gun shops across multiple states and consider the NRA “too compromising” regarding firearm safety, have used Facebook to organize demonstrations throughout the Northeast and Midwest.
Facebook has blocked some, but not all, of this organizing through their application in order to be complaint with stay at home orders in specific states. As one would expect, people such as Donald Trump Jr. and Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri have responded with demands that free speech not be impeded.
Washington State had over 2,000 demonstrate at the statehouse grounds in Olympia on Sunday, April 19th . (Less than two dozen also demonstrated on the same day at the Spokane County Courthouse.) Three Republican state representatives were at the event, notably Granite Falls resident Robert Sutherland (R‑38th District), who said at one point, “Governor, you send your men with guns after us when we go fishing, you’ll see what a revolution looks like.”
What these demonstrations have done, more than anything else, is provide cover. The Trump regime is bound to refer to them as part of the reasoning behind his possible May 1st reopening scheme, especially if new demonstrations happen during the weekend of April 25th. The protests have already become a pretext for further suspending immigration into the United States by executive order .
And it most definitely provides cover for the easing of stay at home orders in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina. Texas officials, who had limited orders in place, are now signaling a desire to ease up their own. Florida has already seen limited lifting of restrictions of beaches, and more is likely to follow.
(Both Texas and Florida, along with ten other states, have had ongoing exemptions in place for religious services or religious service-based organizations.)
Georgia will start opening indoor facilities such as gyms, bowling alleys and hair salons to open as of April 24th , restaurants as of the 27th and everything else by the 30th, with “medically fragile people” recommended to stay at home until May 13th . Tennessee will end its stay at home orders as of April 30th.
South Carolina will open retail facilities by the end of this week, if not sooner, though gyms will remain closed. All three governors of these states have argued that physical distancing can be maintained, but it’s hard to see how people can be protected from COVID-19 when they are in close proximity to each other. Adequate testing and tracing remains infeasible as of this juncture.
These Republican governors seem not to appreciate the sheer size of the effort that would be required to properly test and track for the virus. They are ignoring the sheer magnitude of effort that will be required to develop a vaccine to protect against COVID-19. And at the end of the day, all we’re left with is sheer audacity .