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COVID-19 protest

Demonstrators gather Monday across from the state Capitol to protest orders by Gov. Doug Ducey closing non-essential businesses and telling people they have to stay home unless they are engaged in some permitted activity.

Like grounded children who have demonstrated they haven’t learned any lessons at all from their troubles and yet expect to play with their friends anyway, protesters have been gathering at state capitols across the country, including in Phoenix, only to prove the opposite point they thought they were making.

These demonstrators, spurred on by the troubling belief that lives should be expended to keep an economy running as normal, have shown their true faces. By that, I mean they’re showing their faces at all. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people at these protests are clustering well within 6 feet of each other, with no masks or gloves. It’s an act of defiance against science, something that has unfortunately become all too common, even before the pandemic.

They do this to try to convince governors to re-open businesses and get jobs back. This isn’t a sentiment anyone could argue against as a whole. So many people are hurting right now, financially as well as mentally. Everybody should want these businesses open, but it must be done in a safe, coordinated way. Anything else would likely cause the virus to start spreading again, which would lead to another shutdown.

The damage has already been done to the economy. Laid-off workers are trying to make it through the worst of times while business owners are trying to figure out how they’re going to re-open, if they even will. Because of this, COVID-19 hasn’t spread as fast as it might have otherwise. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation lowered its estimate of how many Arizonans will die from the disease from 1,005 to 267 thanks in large part to social distancing.

So we’ve seen that the stay-at-home order is working. Now, we have to decide whether the economy has been broken for nothing or if we will continue to put our best foot forward in making sure people are safe. If we do, then we can look back on this as a supremely challenging time that in the end saved hundreds of lives in Arizona.

Eventually, of course, the economy will re-open. It should be done with a thorough, science-based plan that minimizes the risk of bringing people back together, especially for those who are more at risk. What can’t happen is the sudden opening of the barn doors caused by hysteria from people who obviously do not understand what impact they are having on others.

This isn’t an anti-protest piece. Believe me, I love a march. But if protesters really wanted to make their point clear, they would show that when businesses re-open, they would go about society in a safe, respectful way. They would show that they are taking all these precautions recommended by health experts, like wearing masks and gloves, and would still keep 6 feet apart whenever they possibly could.

However, many of these protesters at the capitols, and definitely most of those in Phoenix, have shown they are clearly not ready for this. They are clearly demonstrating that if the economy were to re-open, they would not do anything they need to do to make it work. And if a second wave takes place because of that, then what?

I hope Gov. Doug Ducey took a hard look at the rally that took place just outside his office and come to the only sensible conclusion: We’re not ready to re-open, and the stay-at-home order must be extended.

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Joey Chenoweth can be reached at jchenoweth@pinalcentral.com.

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