When physical distancing and other lockdown measures were being introduced in mid-March, public health officials issued cautionary warnings that, as the pandemic progressed, and the measures (hopefully) helped reduce the infection and fatality totals, a backlash might arise where people would accuse governments of over-reacting.
You could attribute it to human nature, I suppose. Although it probably aligns most closely with a particular sub-set of people who see the world through the lens of alt-right broadcast and social media rife with conspiracy theories and alternative facts.
We haven’t seen too much of that so far in Canada. But south of the border, where the political environment seems to be growing more toxic by the day, that sentiment is definitely percolating.
Of course, when you have prominent elected officials leading the parade that’s not really surprising. We saw more evidence of that on Thursday with rag-tag demonstrations being held in Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas and Oklahoma demanding that state-imposed restrictions on business activity and personal movement be lifted.
The “demonstrators” included a mix of self-styled libertarians, anti-vaxxers, pro-gunners, Fox-style Republicans and even white supremacy groups. They had the backing of several Republican and conservative advocacy groups, and were very much on point with the position U.S. president Donald Trump has pushed about the need to re-open the economy ASAP.
Polls show that the vast majority of Americans continue to support measures state governments have taken to limit the spread of the virus. But Trump threw further fuel on the fire by tweeting his support for the protesters — at least, in states led by Democratic governors, while Republican states with similar restrictions escaped his “wrath”.
Michigan is actually one of the COVID-19 hotbeds in the U.S., with the fifth highest number of infections (30,023 as of today at noon) and third highest death toll (2227).
As with evangelical Christians determined to hold large services in defiance of public health guidelines, if it was just a matter of the demonstrators putting their own lives at risk, that would be up to them. But should their protests lead to further viral spread, they would be putting the lives of other citizens at risk, and further delaying the re-opening of their precious economies.
Texas is in the top ten for infections too, while other states where protests were held, such as Oklahoma and Wisconsin, have lower totals. But again, that’s with physical distancing requirements in place. Were they not in effect, or were they to be lifted prematurely, who knows what the totals would’ve been (or will be)?
That’s especially true since we’re in the early days of studying the virus and its health impact on people. And from what we know so far, once the initial wave of infections subsides (AGAIN, because of steps taken to control viral spread) we are likely to experience a second wave of infection at some point which would result in further illness and death and additional economic chaos.