The following is the opinion and analysis of the Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board.
A throng of protesters gathered on the steps of Arizona’s Capitol building on Monday, April 20. In better times, considering the date, marijuana prohibition or Earth Day would have been the topic du jour.
Instead, the subject of protesters’ ire was what they see as government overreach in the form of COVID-19 restriction orders — the same type of orders called essential to stymie the virus by nearly every public health official.
The goal of the protest was to influence Gov. Doug Ducey into “reopening the economy.” The Phoenix gathering was one of many organized events scheduled for capitols and large cities around the country.
The protestors, many carrying firearms, said they were sick of social distancing orders and could take care of themselves without the help of Big Government, thank you very much. “The Bill of Rights has no exceptions for pandemics,” protester Jeremy Graham, told radio station KTAR.
That’s true. However, COVID-19 does not discriminate. The virus cares only that you think only of yourself, preferably while doing so in a large crowd of other potential hosts/victims.
It is one thing to be upset with the loss of job or opportunity and another entirely to gather in a large group and disregard the advice of science, health and good sense by yelling and sweating all over one another.
There are legitimate economic concerns shared by nearly everyone, and some of them, while resulting from a legitimate response to the virus, are exacerbated by government.
For example, both nationally and locally, hospitals and other medical facilities are being forced to let staff go because elective procedures, the bread and butter of hospital budgets, have been discouraged by the CDC and banned by some states’ governors. Ducey has announced elective surgeries can resume May 1.
A healthy dialogue about the extent government at all levels is willing to go to to fight a pandemic and protect its citizenry deserves a forum. That forum exists in the form of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and an almost endless slew of social media networks and apps that are meant to facilitate just such a conversation.
Where it most definitely is not is in large public gatherings, where any potential spreader can shed the virus, and any potential new carrier can take it home and repeat the same cycle with their family members and beyond.
Attendees of these rallies are putting themselves and others in potential mortal danger. They are also making it harder to judge accurately when, exactly, would be a good time to “reopen” the economy by potentially furthering the community spread of the virus.
In other words, these protests are the definition of counterproductive.
Perhaps instead of protesting by gathering in large groups outside, participants can get behind a letter-writing effort to local, state and federal officials demanding a stringent COVID-19 and antibody testing program to make the reopening of the economy both realistic and safe?
We and everyone else desperately want to reopen the economy — it’s hurting us all.
But for it to happen in a safe and responsible way, we’re going to need to think of this battle with COVID-19 as a group effort and not as a individual struggle, which means selflessness, not selfishness.
Let’s start by coming inside for just a little longer.
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