Opinion: Protests against stay-at-home orders put public health at risk

Protestors+gather+in+Downtown+San+Diego+in+opposition+to+California+Governor+Gavin+Newsom%27s+stay-at-home+order+on+April+18.+The+protest+persisted+despite+local+regulations+limiting+large+gatherings.

Photo Courtesy of Andy Coronado (The Travelers Club)

Protestors gather in Downtown San Diego in opposition to California Governor Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order on April 18. The protest persisted despite local regulations limiting large gatherings.

by Roxana Becerril, Engagement Editor

It was an ordinary day in quarantine for me on Saturday, April 18. As a firm believer of stay-at-home orders and the importance of flattening the curve of the novel coronavirus via self-isolation, there was not much left for me to do than to – wait for it – stay at home. 

As my days in quarantine increase, my screen time does too. I grabbed my phone for a routine scan of my Twitter feed when something unexpected popped up on my timeline: videos of people protesting in Downtown San Diego. 

News organizations such as KPBS documented self-proclaimed patriots waving American flags and holding posters with the words “America” and “freedom.” Others were chanting “U-S-A” only inches away from the rest of the mass of protestors dressed in red, white and blue. 

Only a few wore face masks and almost none followed the suggested 6-foot social distance guideline. 

All of the car honking and chanting imitated the feel of a block party on the Fourth of July, only with Trump 2020 hats and posters asking to reopen California as a substitute for fireworks and hot dogs. 

What was the cause of this Fourth of July parade veiled as a densely-packed protest for freedom? 

Coronavirus stay-at-home orders. 

This rally comes a month after California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order intended to combat the spread of coronavirus. It’s also just one of the many freedom protests that have been taking place nationwide. States like Colorado have also participated in this movement and Wisconsin has a #ReopenWisconsin rally scheduled on Facebook. 

According to a protestor interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, she thinks people at the “Freedom Rally” have had enough and want to go back to work, noting her friends have lost their jobs. 

Another protestor, who carried his presumed toddler on his shoulders, expressed his deep concern for the implications of the stay-home-order with a poster that read “Open up the zoo, Legoland and Disney.” And let’s not forget to pay our respects to the man carrying a sign that read “Fear God not COVID-19.”

A protestor in Downtown San Diego holds up a sign in opposition to Newsom’s stay-at-home order on April 18. The order has largely confined Californians to their homes since mid-March in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Andy Coronado – The Travelers Club)

At first glance, this so-called “freedom rally” looked like a democratic approach to voicing your opinions and expressing your beliefs in a nonviolent fashion — a constitutional right we’re afforded in America.

I stand with the democratic ideal of using your voice to communicate your beliefs. That is, of course, as long as the parties involved aren’t posing a threat to the safety and health of others. 

After examining the posters demanding something as shallow as the reopening of theme parks and seeing people packed like sardines along the sidewalks with zero mouth coverage, I realized this movement is more harmful than democratic. 

More than 776,000 people have been infected by the virus and at least 41,000 people have died in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University

After Sunday, the number of COVID-19 cases in San Diego increased by 57, bringing the total to 2,325. As of Monday, 71 people in the county have died because of the virus. 

Friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers are dying; and people are worried about not being able to go to Legoland? 

Healthcare workers are sacrificing their wellbeing — both, mental and physical — on a daily basis and people are asking others to “Fear God not COVID-19?” 

If these protestors were to contract the virus and end up in the emergency room, I wonder if, in that moment, they’d still practice what they preach. Especially the few at the rally that did wear a mask. 

People at these rallies claim their constitutional rights and freedom are being jeopardized with the closure of non-essential businesses and stay-at-home orders. They’re tired of being told what to do. 

What they’re not understanding is that these measures aren’t based on the premise of a certain political ideology, but rather on the public health and safety of the community. 

Participants of the nationwide freedom rally aren’t taking others into consideration. Expressing your political ideology is one thing. But not following the social distancing guidelines suggested by legitimate institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and putting the entire community at risk, is another. 

These protests have nothing to do with the economy, constitutional rights, freedom nor the wellbeing of the entire nation. 

This “freedom movement” just screams pure ignorance and flawed arguments based on religion, right-wing politics and an extremely narcissistic point of view. 

Roxana Becerril is a senior studying advertising. Follow her on Twitter @roxybecerril. 

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