Amid protests, US states loosening COVID-19 restrictions

By Arul Louis

April 18, 2020

New York: Several US states are loosening the COVID-19 restrictions a day after President Donald Trump unveiled guidelines for phased opening of the country.

As the prolonged Stay-at-Home restrictions began to take a toll on people, protests were reported from at least six states this week and Trump inserted himself into the situation on Friday by tweeting “LIBERATE” Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia.

Trump defended his tweets at his White House news conference later in the day, saying: “I think some things are too tough.”

He focused on the protests in Virginia fueled by gun rights advocates and said the state’s Democrat Governor was trying to take away the right to bear arms guaranteed in the Cnstitution.

Some of the protesters there were opposing the closing of the firing ranges as part of the COVID-19 restrictions.

After first claiming that he had the right to open up the entire country, Trump had conceded the authority to the state governors on Thursday, but was playing to his base on Friday by putting pressure on some governors, even if they had not met the criteria in his guidelines for loosening the restrictions.

Trump said of the protests: “They all want to open. Nobody wants to stay shut, but they want to open safely. So, that will be a governor’s choice, and we’ll have no problem with it.”

Washington’s Democrat Governor Jay Inslee, accused Trump of “fomenting domestic rebellion” and undermining his own goal of a national recovery from the pandemic.

The Governors of three of the states where the protests took place have said that they would be easing the restrictions.

Some others have also announced concessions.

There is, however, a controversy over whether the nation has enough tests to find those positive for COVID-19 and those who have had it and are most likely immune to it.

The tests are required under the guidelines unveiled by Trump for the phased and targeted opening of states that meet certain criteria like having a downward trajectory for the disease.

Voicing the opinion of those asserting the nation was not ready, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “No state is currently capable of doing the large-scale COVID testing that is needed.”

But Trump’s main medical expert, the highly respected Anthony Fauci, countered: “We will have and there will be enough tests to allow us to take this country safely through phase one,” of the opening process.

Giving an overview of the tests, Fauci said: “The emphasis that we’ve been hearing is essentially, ‘testing is everything’, and it isn’t.”

He pointed out that a COVID-19 test could only indicate if a person was negative at a given time as the person could catch it after leaving the test site and continuous testing would be needed to be sure of the status.

About the impact of the restrictions, Cuomo conceded: “Situation we now have is unsustainable. People can’t stay in their home this length of time. They can’t stay out of work.”

The restrictions being eased mostly pertain to recreation and retail sales.

The contrast between states can be seen in how New York City and Florida deal with beaches.

While New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city beaches will remain closed, Florida Governor Ron Desantis ordered the reopening of beaches that had been shutdown after young people on Spring vacation crowded them violating social distancing and carrying infections to other states.

In Ohio which has seen protests, Governor Mike DeWine said that from May 1 when the Stay-at-Home orders end, some businesses now considered non-essential would be allowed to open under strict guidelines.

In another state with protests, Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who had imposed one of the strictest lockdowns, said she would announcing the plan for loosening the restrictions next week.

And in Minnesota, where protests were held outside the home of Governor Tim Walz, he is allowing golf courses and gun ranges to reopen and will permit picnicking.

Other states are also coming up with ways to lessen the stringency of the pandemic restrictions.

Texas will permit elective medical procedures, allow non-essential shops to sell their wares for pick up, and open state parks.