Coronavirus crisis: Angry Americans protest, defy stay-at-home orders
Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah have all seen protests in recent days as people grow more concerned about the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The US President has now issued new guidelines for the states to emerge from the shutdown.
As the US grapples with the coronavirus crisis, protesters gathered in the country’s several state capitals this week to voice their anger and opposition to stay-at-home orders issued to contain the spread of COVID-19 which has so far killed more than 33,200 people and infected at least 671,151.
Amid these protests, President Donald Trump laid out new guidelines on Thursday for the country’s states to emerge from the coronavirus shutdown in a staggered, three-stage approach meant to revive the economy.
Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah -- states led by both Republican and Democratic governors -- have all seen protests in recent days as people grow more concerned about the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
The sweeping stay-at-home orders in 42 US states have shuttered businesses, disrupted lives and decimated the economy.
In Michigan, where Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has imposed some of the country's toughest limits on travel and business, thousands of residents on Wednesday choked traffic in state capital Lansing – as part of "Operation Gridlock".
Whitmer has extended the state's stay-home order through April 30. It includes restrictions like prohibiting most people from traveling between residences unless they're taking care of a relative or dropping off a child.
Kenny Clevenger, 30, a realtor in western Michigan's Allegan County, where only 25 coronavirus cases have been identified, said the shutdown had put him out of business.
"Yes, this needs to be taken seriously, but it's being taken advantage of," Clevenger said. "People believe Democrats are attempting to use this to undermine the economy, once again just attacking the president."
Protesters in Kentucky disrupted Democratic Governor Andy Beshear's afternoon news briefing on the pandemic, chanting, "We want to work!"
A few dozen protesters, many with young children, gathered in Virginia's state capital of Richmond on Thursday in defiance of Democratic Governor Ralph Northam's mandate.
In Minnesota, some protesters met Thursday outside the governor's mansion in St. Paul to voice opposition to Democratic Governor Tim Walz's stay-home order, which has been extended through May 3.
The protests have taken on a partisan tone, often featuring supporters of Trump, and critiquing governors.
States including Utah, North Carolina and Ohio also saw demonstrations this week, and more are planned for the coming days, including in Oregon, Idaho and Texas.
The US has seen the highest death toll of any country in the pandemic, and public health officials have warned that a premature easing of social distancing orders could exacerbate it.
Trump has repeatedly said he wants to "reopen" the economy as soon as possible and has clashed with governors over whether he can overrule their stay-at-home orders.
On Thursday, the President unveiled new guidelines to help states loosen their social distancing restrictions by adopting a staggered, three-stage approach meant to revive the US economy.
In a retreat from his onetime claim of "absolute authority" to restart the economy, he told governors it was their decision on when and how to reopen.
"We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time," Trump told reporters at the White House.
The new guidelines won't be mandatory.
The benchmarks for the first phase include a sustained decrease in cases over a 14-day period and a return to pre-crisis conditions in hospitals.
States should have the "ability to quickly set up safe and efficient screening and testing sites," the guidelines read, and "quickly and independently supply sufficient Personal Protective Equipment" in hospitals.
In the first phase of reopening, the document suggests schools that are currently closed should remain so and employees who are able to telework should keep working from home.
Large venues, including some restaurants, can operate under strict social distancing protocols. Gyms can open as long as they maintain social distancing guidelines, but bars should remain shut.
Phases two and three gradually decrease the recommended restrictions.
The political wrangling over the COVID-19 crisis has begun to take on familiar partisan battle lines. Democratic strongholds in dense urban centers such as Seattle and Detroit have been hard hit by the virus, while more Republican-leaning rural communities are struggling with the shuttered economy but have seen fewer cases.
Increasingly, Republican state lawmakers, including some in Texas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, have begun putting pressure on governors to reopen businesses. Pennsylvania's Republican-led legislature passed a bill that would loosen restrictions, which Democratic Governor Tom Wolf was expected to veto.
Both Democratic and Republican governors have resisted calls to abandon distancing too quickly. On Thursday, five Democratic governors and two Republican governors in the Midwest, including Whitmer in Michigan, said they would coordinate efforts.