Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are necessary

The Editorial Board responds to a protest against Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 20, hundreds of protestors demonstrated outside of the state capitol in Harrisburg to protest Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order, a measure public health officials deem essential to limit the spread of COVID-19, a strain of the coronavirus, SpotlightPA reported.

Many of the protestors appeared to not be wearing face masks, despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to do so, and they were lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, despite the CDC’s advisory to keep at least six feet of distance away from one another, Fox News reported. The demonstrators called for an end to the statewide shutdown in a protest that followed similar rallies across the nation this past weekend, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. 

Amid the protest on Monday, Wolf extended the stay-at-home order to May 8, but relaxed some restrictions, particularly in counties with fewer reported cases of COVID-19, the Inquirer reported.

As of April 20, the day of the Harrisburg protest, there were 33,232 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, with 1,204 deaths, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Reported cases of COVID-19 have been steadily increasing throughout Pennsylvania since early March, with the most dramatic growth in Southeastern Pennsylvania, which encompasses Philadelphia, according to the DOH.

The Editorial Board wants to make it clear that this stay-at-home order is necessary to protect the health and safety of everyone. Social distancing and limited face-to-face contact with others is the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as the virus can be spread airborne within six feet, according to the CDC.

In countries and regions like South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders have proven to be successful in “flattening the curve,” or reducing the number of daily cases so as not to overwhelm hospitals, according to Mayo Clinic. These measures work, but only when they’re followed by everyone who can do so.

We are upset to see individuals disregard the scientifically proven measures put in place for the benefit of the common good by organizing this rally, which in the process is counterproductive to attempts to stop the spread of the virus.

When you don’t socially distance or wear face masks in public, you are directly disregarding science and risk further spreading the virus to others and endangering their lives.

While the Editorial Board recognizes and respects the democratic right to protest, we also acknowledge and value the health, safety and lives of the American public. We want to protect the lives of the immunocompromised, health care workers, essential workers and so many other groups of people who are at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19 — individuals who may now be at greater danger because of this irresponsible protest.

We acknowledge that not everyone has the ability to social distance, and that many have to go into work during these stressful times. The Editorial Board wants to acknowledge those who are continuing to work amid this pandemic, and we thank you.

But for individuals with the privilege to be able to social distance, please obey your state’s stay-at-home orders. Avoid close contact with others, remain at home whenever possible and wear a face mask when in public, if possible.

The Editorial Board understands that the past few weeks have been incredibly difficult, and we appreciate all the sacrifices you have made during this time. We hope for an end to this pandemic that has taken the lives of nearly 40,000 people across the nation.

But refusing to social distance won’t make that end come any sooner. If anything, it’s going to make matters worse.

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