Over the past few days, I have watched people protest our stay-in-place orders in my home state, Michigan, and elsewhere around the country. I’ve wanted to comment, but decided to wait and see how things played out. In our current political climate, where everything, even the public health, becomes a political football, I am still surprised and deeply disappointed by the general response of the protesters.
I have family and friends who have suffered from this horrible disease. In a few cases, their loved ones have died from it. I also have friends and family on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 – doctors and nurses who say goodbye to their families every day, put their lives at risk to help others, and work excruciating hours without proper PPE and supplies. They speak to patients who cannot put two words together because they cannot catch their breath. They talk to people who are coming home after being on a ventilator for 14 days (no one knows whether there will be long-term effects from their ventilator use). They hold hands with and attempt to soothe their patients’ anguished family members. They provide iPads for patients to Facetime family members, while understanding this may be the last time they will see or talk with them. Tragically, after developing a bond of sorts, they have been forced to put some of these patients in body bags.
I understand the frustration of the healthy. I would love to spend time with my children and grandchildren. I miss the simple embrace of their love, a hug, or a peck on the cheek. I’d love to watch my grandsons little league games again, have family dinners, or take my wife to a fine restaurant. I’d love to be able to work at my craft, from my office, in an open legal system (courts are closed all over the country, essentially shutting down my clients’ access to justice.
Maybe I could be selfish and ignore our governor’s social distancing and shelter at home orders. Maybe they go too far. However, I am unwilling to risk my health, my family’s health, or the health of others—why are my fellow Michiganders and other state’s citizens so brazenly willing to risk the health of others for the sake of a buck.
Scientists and medical experts have clearly indicated that a shutdown and shelter in place strategy are the best means to handle this pandemic. Because of these measures, we have seen positive results, the slow flattening of the curve. Open the country, putting the brakes on these orders, and returning to “normal” will, almost assuredly, result in another surge in COVID cases, putting all of us, especially hospital workers, doctors, nurses, and patients, at significant risk.
Condemning protests that put others in danger does not violate anyone’s constitutional rights. Public safety trumps all—this is common sense, isn’t it? We’ve been at this for about a month now—if we are saving lives, isn’t it worth the sacrifice? The volume of cases and deaths remain too high even to consider a return to “normal.”
The economy is important. Making a living is not only an economic necessity but also a self-worth and self-satisfaction necessity. We feel value in our accomplishments. But, human life is more valuable—we can restart the economy or rebuild if we have to, but not if the majority of our citizens are seriously ill, or, worse, succumb to this horrible disease. For those willing to say, “I am healthy and will take the risk,” I say, that’s great for you, but it is not about you. You put everyone at risk with your reckless behavior, including your own, beloved family members. No one gets a free pass from COVID 19—it does not discriminate by race, color, religion, or political ideology.
No one is immune. You can carry this virus without ever displaying or experiencing symptoms. Are you willing to go to work, to a restaurant, to the gym or the golf course at the risk of either contracting the virus or passing it to a family member, friend, coworker, or neighbor? Are you willing to put their lives at risk? What activity is worth that?
Please, fellow citizens, be patient and listen to those on the front lines. Shelter in place, practice social distancing and end these protests against common-sense safety measures. We will get through this in time, hopefully, sooner than later, but only if we put politics aside, stay home, and stay safe.