By Dr. Eesha Dave
There have been a series of nationwide protests over the past week calling on governors and local governments to reopen the economy and lift stay-at-home orders. We had similar protests across Pennsylvania this week as well. While the attendees cross party lines, they are largely conservative and right-wing political supporters.
As a healthcare professional, I find the thought of people gathering in close proximity, shaking hands, and spreading droplets from their breath absolutely frightening. It sounds like a mine for COVID-exposure. Right as we start seeing the virus curve flatten in our state, I shudder to think that these protests could set us back. Many healthcare workers fear this as well. However, in light of these protests and their extensive media coverage, it is important to recognize that the majority of the American public does not support these protests. We are still a country grounded in facts and science.
Most Americans are in favor of continuing the lockdown. New data from the Pew Research Center shows that two-thirds (66%) of Americans worry that state governments will lift restrictions on public activity too soon. Their data also reveals that 73% of Americans are concerned that we have not experienced the worst of the outbreak just yet . Those who wish to return to a “normal life” are the clear minority. This gives me hope that here in Pennsylvania we still want to work together, and most importantly, believe and trust science.
However, even though these protestors are a small, but loud group, it is frustrating that President Trump encourages them. Throughout COVID, our nation has lacked a unified approach to stay-home orders. As a result, governors like Tom Wolf have become essential leaders. The result of this though is a hodgepodge of rules depending on not only the state in which you live but also the county.
This is why some individuals feel that these rules are unnecessary. It makes it easy to feel that they are needlessly restrictive and that Governor Wolf is wrong. However, these rules are in place to save lives, and Western PA has fared well because of them.
Our caseload has been manageable compared to other parts of the country. Pittsburgh is a mid-sized city with an international airport, so the odds of us being hit hard were high. However, our state government started the shut down early—right around the time New York City did. This gave us an edge on the virus curve. It is a large reason why we have been somewhat spared. It is the main reason why we cannot rush to reopen our state.
We have every right to breathe easy knowing that Western PA is not drowning in COVID. However, we must continue to be vigilant. We cannot start throwing our life vests away just because we see the shore. We have no idea how deep and widespread the impact of this virus will continue to be. We must remain cautious.
Kentucky recently announced its biggest spike in COVID cases. This is being attributed to a protest held in the state last week to end the shutdown. It is obvious that attending protests is only going to set us back further and delay the reopening of our country. This is exactly what the protestors do not want. This is what nobody wants.
Please continue to stay home.
Eesha Dave, MD is a physician in Pittsburgh.