“Freedom over fear,” one protest sign reads. Many isolated Americans are angry over being held prisoner in their own homes. In several states, demonstrators defied social-distancing guidelines to gather in the streets. They’re fighting back against what they consider unconstitutional overreach, and want to “shutdown the shutdown.” Health officials warn they’re playing with fire. We all could get burned when the second wave hits, that’s exactly what happened with the Spanish flu.
Restless Americans demand their freedom
As the shelter-in-place restrictions drag on, many state governors are announcing that they aren’t nearly ready enough to open back up, based on the recommended guidelines. With each passing day, Americans are growing ever more fidgety to get their freedom back. Many have no income, so along with the cabin fever comes stress and anxiety about the future. They need to get out of the house and back to work as soon as they possibly can.
Young healthy Americans believe risking exposure should be their choice. It’s their body. “If I get sick, then I am going to bear the consequences of my getting sick,” declares Andy Lyons of Indianapolis. “If anybody else gets sick, they bear the consequences of their free choice without government coercion to do so. That’s what this is about.” One sign proudly declared “Jesus is my vaccine” from the side of a tractor in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
According to Aaron Ruis of El Cajon, “It is clear from our founding documents that the idea that the individual, not the government, knows what’s best for their particular situation.” He notes that the limitations on government spelled out in the Bill of Rights “are most important during times in which the government feels they have an opportunity to infringe on those rights.”
Officials urge patience and cooperation
State and federal officials aren’t simply dismissing the views of the protesters out of hand, they ask for willing cooperation. Freedom is important. Nobody wants to use force to make people comply, even though they have the authority and will use it if they need to.
As Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan explains, he understands “the frustration among the people that want to get things open right away. I’m frustrated also.” The governor assures “We’re doing everything we possibly can to reopen in a safe manner.” The guidelines issued by the experts for “Opening Up America Again” require a “downward trajectory” in cases or positive test results over a 14-day span.
Many states haven’t met those targets yet. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told the press her state “has the third highest death count in the country.” Opening up now would be a huge mistake. The nurses there agree. According to a statement from the Nurses Association, the protests are “irresponsible” because they send “exactly the opposite message that nurses and healthcare professionals are trying to get across.” They’re “begging people, please stay home.”
We learned this lesson before
Epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant is quick to point out that history taught us this lesson the hard way in the past and if we’re not careful, we may be about to repeat it. Back in 1918, a Spanish flu pandemic killed more than 675,000 Americans. The price was much higher than it could have been.
During the Spanish flu outbreak, “people let up on social distancing too early.” When the second wave of infections came crashing down, it was “deadlier than the first.”
Most of the protesters followed physical-distancing suggestions, wore face masks, and in some cases protested from their cars. Because of that, the authorities allowed them considerable freedom to protest. As a spokesman for the Sand Diego police relates, “We are balancing the need to enforce and citing people for not social distancing with the anger (and) frustration that people have for being quarantined the last month.”