Protesters in Texas, Florida and Arizona laid body bags outside statehouses and a governor’s mansion on Tuesday to protest plans to reopen businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Activists with local chapters of the national grassroots progressive organization Indivisible arranged body bags outside the gate of the governor’s mansion in Austin:
Indivisible members did the same on the steps of the Old Capitol building in Tallahassee:
Protesters also placed body bags on the lawn outside the state Capitol building in Phoenix:
Each demonstration featured an activist dressed as the Grim Reaper standing over the body bags, which was meant to represent the 81,000 Americans who have already been killed by COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and the many more who could die if governors rush to lift stay-at-home orders.
The coordinated action was meant to urge the states’ respective governors to “listen to medical experts and not cave to pressure to open the state too fast, risking more lives,” according to a statement from Indivisible.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot (R) started reopening businesses in the state, including malls, on May 1. The state has since seen a rise in coronavirus cases. There have been nearly 40,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Texas, and about 1,100 deaths.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) also started reopening businesses earlier this month. There had been nearly 42,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the state as of Tuesday, including 1,779 deaths, according to the state health department.
Arizona started reopening some businesses last week, per an order by Gov. Doug Ducey (R). The governor made the order even though Arizona had failed to meet guidelines put forth by the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which say states should see a 14-day decline in new cases before loosening lockdown measures. As of Tuesday, the COVID-19 death count in Arizona had grown to 562.
“We need to properly combat the spread of coronavirus so that we can ensure a safe reopening of businesses, public spaces and schools so we don’t wind up with another 532 body bags,” said protester Sharli Schaitberger, a retired health care worker at the Phoenix demonstration, according to a report from The Arizona Republic.
“A pandemic like this was always a given to those of us on the front lines, so we would teach and talk all day long with people about what we were going to do and how we would protect ourselves,” Schaitberger said. “Now, it seems like that didn’t even matter because we have a government that is not even listening to the recommendations of the World Health Organization.”
Tuesday’s demonstrations follow weeks of protests at state Capitols across the country, many of which have been organized by far-right extremists and anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists. Protesters have demanded that governors reopen state economies despite the desperate warnings of state health officials. Some of those protests have featured armed militias.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, delivered startling testimony before the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday, cautioning Americans against going back to business as usual. He said reopening economies could lead to spikes in the number of infections and deaths.
Fauci also testified that the death toll from coronavirus is likely larger than has been reported.
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