Protestors rally against stay-at-home orders across the country

Nathan Gibbs

While healthcare workers around the country risk their lives each day to rescue our country’s most vulnerable from the pandemic that has transformed our world, conservative Americans across the United States have spent their time threatening government officials and risking the lives of everyone around them so they can exercise their right to a haircut.

In the last few weeks, states like California and Michigan have seen massive groups of people defy state health guidelines that prohibit large gatherings and take to State Capitols to protest against stay-at-home orders and several other restrictions on things like businesses. 

Hundreds of protestors in Michigan, with some carrying rifles, came to the State Capitol to protest Michigan’s stay-at-home orders on May 1. In California, protests occurred in places like Sacramento, San Francisco, and even Huntington Beach, where protestors criticized the closing of the beach by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

There are various arguments that have come from conservative groups that are leading anti-quarantine rallies. Some say that the economy will suffer irreparable damage from these orders. Others say that government-enforced quarantines are a violation of our constitutional rights.

The point, however, that I don’t believe that these protestors are quite grasping, is actually fairly simple: no one who is complying with quarantine orders is enjoying it. No one wants to be out of work, away from family and friends, and stuck in the house all day for months. We aren’t self-isolating because it’s fun. We’re doing it because it’s the morally right thing to do to protect those who are at risk.

Those who are against social distancing requirements have offered little in the way of viable alternatives. The idea that only the sick should be required to quarantine is a nice idea, but unfortunately when you combine the relatively high number of patients who are asymptomatic and the scarcity of available and accurate testing for the virus, this argument falls apart.

There have also been those who have pointed to nations like Sweden, who have adopted a herd immunity mentality to combat the virus. Sweden, while still urging citizens to act responsibly and to follow social distancing guidelines, have imposed no government shutdowns, other than restrictions of gatherings of 50 or more people. However, this argument is also heavily flawed.

First, Sweden is a much smaller country than the United States. The United States has a population that is about 33 times larger than Sweden, meaning the potential victim pool is much larger in the US.

Second, healthcare in Sweden is far more accessible than in the US. Sweden’s healthcare system is socialized, meaning it is funded almost entirely by government taxes. This allows for COVID victims to receive testing and treatment. It has also been reported that, unlike the US and many other countries, Sweden never faced a significant shortage of medical equipment or hospital capacity.

And third, Sweden is actually not currently seeing the positive results they initially hoped for. The nation is currently seeing death rates at much higher rates than neighboring countries, like Denmark and Norway, who imposed far stricter regulations to combat the virus.

The United States may have been able to find a better solution had there been a faster response by government officials. President Donald Trump spent the first month of the virus’s spread saying that the outbreak was “totally under control”, and that with April’s warm weather the virus “miraculously goes away”. This critical period should have been spent preparing the government and the American people for the outbreak that many public health officials in the US and around the world were warning world leaders about, not the fabricated extended flu season that Trump wrote it off as. 

This failure to act in the first month was detrimental to the government’s ability to take early action against the virus. So while protestors bang down the doors of Democratic Governors for violating their rights, they should maybe focus their attention on the White House, which could have prevented the infection and death rates that are being seen in the US, which are significantly higher than those seen in places like Canada and Western Europe.