Many states across the U.S. still have shelter-in-place orders in effect, while others are in the process of slowly reopening their economies to get people back to work. While the federal government has set guidelines to help states determine when they should reopen, state governors are largely in control of when these shelter-in-place orders expire. While going outside and going back to work may seem appealing, these guidelines are designed to protect everyone from infection.
However, some people are starting to protest the idea of staying home, even if it means putting their health – and the health of others – at risk.
Over the last week, we’ve seen several protests break out across the country, including those in Arizona and Colorado. Protesters are gathering in large groups as a way of visibly defying their state’s orders to stay at home. Some protesters have even started dressing up as healthcare workers to confuse the media. On the other side of the fence, we’ve seen healthcare workers dressed in full personal protective gear silently counter-protesting those who want to go back to work.
Dive into this contentious issue and learn more about how America really feels about sheltering in place.
Is America Ready to Reopen?
The central question at the heart of these protests is whether the country is ready to reopen and put people back to work. Several states, including Alaska, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, believe they are ready to start reopening, but with several restrictions in place. For example, patrons will need to sit further apart at restaurants and cafes. Across the country, schools, sporting events, and concerts are still on hold until further notice.
The White House recently released guidelines for states on when they can and should start to reopen. These include recommendations such as a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period and hospitals resuming elective procedures, as well as having robust testing in place for at-risk healthcare workers. States should also have contact tracing teams in place to help curb future outbreaks.
As you might imagine, many states, including those that have chosen to reopen, have not met these criteria. Georgia recently allowed stores, businesses, and restaurants to reopen across the state, yet the state is still reporting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases, clearly violating the White House’s guidelines. However, Gov. Brian Kemp believes in getting back to normal as quickly as possible, drawing the ire of health experts and even the president of the U.S.
How America Feels About Staying Home
Just because anti-lockdown protests have popped up in Arizona and Colorado doesn’t mean the majority of Americans are ready to go back to work. Many people are getting frustrated with the reality of staying indoors, but they are doing so to protect their health and the health of their communities.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, around 80% of the public supports strict shelter-in-place orders, while just 19% say these orders could do more harm than good. The politics behind this issue seem to be breaking down along party lines.
Around 94% of democrats support these policies, while just 61% of republicans feel the same. Support for sheltering-in-place tends to be less enthusiastic in rural and republican states, yet a majority of residents still support these policies overall.
Some rural and suburban citizens may see the coronavirus pandemic as more of a coastal, urban problem than one that affects them directly. However, the virus is starting to spread through rural communities as well.
The Viral Nature of Protests
Protesters tend to get a lot of attention in the media, especially when they are the only ones out on the street. While we may see people in full body armor wearing signs like “My Body, My Choice,” on the front page of the newspaper, these individuals do not speak for all Americans.
Some are using these protests to further their own political ambitions. Conservative Congresswoman Dr. Kelli Ward recently went on Twitter, asking protesters to dress up as healthcare workers to confuse the media. She wrote, ““EVERYONE wear scrubs and masks — the media doesn’t care if you are really in healthcare or not — it’s the ‘message’ that matters!” followed by the hashtag #JustWearScrubs.
The tweet quickly drew fire from the Democratic party, public health officials, and nurses across the country. Many healthcare providers even came to the protest on their day off to silently protest those who want to reopen the state.
But are these protests organic?
Recent articles in the New York Times and Washington Post have tied these protests back to Pro-Trump political organizations and those backed by Republican donors. Protesting in the streets can be a great way to get attention in the media.
For many people, going back to work can be a complicated issue. Lifting local shelter-in-place orders may help them earn a paycheck, but they could put their health at risk as a result.
Some of your patients may feel strongly about being forced to stay at home, especially in a free country like America, but remind them that it’s not just about their health. We’re all in this together.
Keep these ideas in mind as your state considers reopening the local economy.