Columns / COVID-19 / Discourse / April 27, 2020

Column: Protests mislead and make matters worse

By now, I’m sure we’ve all had some sort of protest of stay-at-home orders near our hometowns, and if you haven’t, I’m sure you’ve heard about them. These protests resonate with some people, but for most, they’re a cause of frustration.

The whole point of stay-at-home orders is to flatten the curve. It is to help lessen the amount of people overwhelming hospitals so that there won’t be so much of a loss of life from COVID-19. It’s to keep those who are especially vulnerable safe and to keep the rest of us as healthy as possible until there is some sort of treatment or vaccine.

Stay-at-home orders mandate that everyone besides essential employees stay home unless they need to do something like grocery shopping. When outside of the house, people are asked to stay at least six feet apart and wear masks and gloves if they can.

The protests against these orders were said to be small businesses owners who are suffering because they’re unable to make money right now and may lose their business. Put this way, and given that protestors stay in their cars to maintain social distancing guidelines, the protests don’t seem totally unreasonable. Money is tight and the government hasn’t provided enough for people with no income to get by.

The reality of these protests ended up being pseudo-Trump rallies with middle aged white people throwing a fit because they have a right to get sick if they want to and they want to be able to get haircuts, massages and their nails done. Many of them packed together in crowds outside of state capital buildings with blatant disregard for social distancing. There were even wannabe militiamen marching around with guns.

The most ironic part of these protests is that if these people just stayed at home like the rest of us, the orders would probably be lifted sooner. Instead, in two weeks’ time, we’ll probably see a spike in COVID-19 cases and stay-at-home orders will most likely be reinstated or extended because of outbreaks caused by people who went to these protests.

Beyond that, reports have now come out that these protests weren’t just grassroots attempts at making small business owners’ voices being heard. It wasn’t just people who were genuinely struggling to get by, and the appearance of Trump supporters doesn’t seem to have been a coincidence.

These protests were organized and paid for by wealthy Republicans, some of who are high up in the government. Reporters have found connections to Betsy DeVos when they looked into who was funding and planning these events. Donald Trump tweeted out support for these protests.

For Republicans to fund these protests and the president to show his support of them is reckless and shows how little they care. There’s no doubt in my mind that some of the people that attended the protests will end up catching COVID-19 and die. Still, the money and support was there and still, the protesters will be undyingly loyal to the Republican party.

It’s frustrating beyond measure to have people disregarding the health, and ultimately survival, of other people in order to make money. It’s frustrating that the only choice in their mind is to reopen the economy, not to question a system that makes them choose between their health and safety and making money.

For those of us who are aware of the danger that COVID-19 poses and are heeding social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders, hang in there. This will come to end, and we will make it through.

If you’re as frustrated as I am, fight for what you think is right. Educate those who are spreading disinformation. We have the power to make a difference. We have the power to question how our society will look once this crisis has passed.

Sarah Eitel

Tags:  COVID-19 curve pandemic protests stay-at-home Trump

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