coronavirus

'So selfish': Northam raps anti-quarantine protesters

While Northam said he empathized with protesters’ eagerness to reopen parts of the economy, the governor maintained he wanted a safe return to normalcy.

Ralph Northam

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday called protesters demonstrating against his shelter-in-place order "selfish," accusing them of potentially endangering the lives of health care providers by refusing to practice social distancing measures.

While Northam, a physician, said he empathized with protesters’ eagerness to reopen parts of the economy shuttered in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the governor maintained he wanted a safe return to normalcy.

“I'm just as anxious as anybody else to open up our economy,” Northam said in an interview on MSNBC, noting that he is a small-business owner himself. “We don't need protesters to encourage me and anybody else to ease these restrictions.”

Protests similar to the one outside Virginia's Capitol have sprung up at state capitols across the country as Americans grow restless under the stay-at-home orders that have devastated the U.S. economy. Even with those social-distancing mitigation efforts, infection rates and the death toll in the U.S. continue to rise.

Images of the protesters in close quarters, including some without face coverings, have flooded airwaves and social media over the past week, while President Donald Trump has done little to discourage them even though the demonstrations are clear violations of his administration's coronavirus mitigation guidance.

The disregard for social distancing at the protests, Northam said, doesn’t endanger the health of just the attendees.

“What they're doing at the end of the day — which I think is so selfish — they're putting our health care providers, those that are in the trenches trying to save lives every day, they're putting them at risk, and that's wrong. I would ask them to think about that.”

Last week, the White House rolled out a series of benchmarks for a phased reopening of parts of the country with smaller outbreaks of coronavirus. In the wake of that plan, some governors, like Brian Kemp of Georgia, have announced a rollback of shelter-in-place restrictions beginning as soon as this week. That move, seen by some as premature, has faced fierce pushback of its own.

Still other state leaders have resisted pressure to loosen restrictions, even in the face of protests in their backyard, citing a lack of sufficient testing and data that indicates the virus is not yet under control.

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