“Unfortunately, there were many more deaths yesterday in Maryland than we had protesters,” Hogan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. Hogan said he was more alarmed by the huge crowds that gathered in nearby Washington, DC.
“Look, we are very keen to reopen our state safely as soon as possible, because people are frustrated and they are inside their homes,” Hogan told CNN’s Jake Tapper. Although Washington, DC, has a valid residence order, he said he was concerned that “thousands of people were trapped in the National Mall in direct violation of this law.”
Although large majorities of Americans have supported stay orders so far, a vocal minority continues to accuse governors in states like Maryland, California and Michigan of abusing their power in demanding that people stay at home. On Thursday, between 400 and 700 protesters, including some armed, invaded the Michigan State Capitol to support Republican lawmakers who were trying to prevent Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer from extending the state’s emergency declaration. (She did it anyway, by decree).
“We know that not everyone is happy to have to take this position of staying at home, and you know what? I’m not either, “Whitmer told CNN’s Tapper on Sunday on” State of the Union. ” “The fact is that we have to listen to the epidemiologists and our public health experts. “
“Screens like the one we saw in our Capitol building are not representative of who we are today. There were swastikas and Confederate flags and sliding knots and people with assault rifles. And it’s a small group of people when you think about the fact that this is a condition of almost 10 million people, the vast majority of whom are doing the right thing, “she said.
On Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted in support of the protesters, calling on Whitmer to “donate a little and put out the fire.”
“They are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives to come back safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal, ”Trump tweeted.
But Trump’s message was contradicted on Sunday by one of his best coronavirus advisers, Dr. Deborah Birx. Birx said in an interview with Fox News Sunday that the Americans should “protect each other while we express our dissatisfaction.” She called the protests “a worrying concern to me personally,” in part, she said, because the protesters could spread the virus to elderly family members.
Whitmer said the protests were “some of the worst racism and worst episodes in our history in this country.”
“We are in a global pandemic. It is not something we just negotiate – and it is a political issue. It was a public health crisis that claimed the lives of nearly 70,000 Americans, which left 30 million people dead. We have lost in the past 24 hours almost the same number of Americans killed on September 11, “she said on” State of the Union “.
“Whether you agree with me or not, I work to protect your life if you live in the state of Michigan,” said Whitmer. “I will continue to do my job, regardless of the tweets or polls. “
Top Doctors Give Governors Some Coverage
Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, gave the governors some cover by urging them to use science and data to guide the phases of the reopening. Fauci warned earlier this week that governors shouldn’t just “skip” national guidelines – that states should wait to reopen until they see a 14-day drop in coronavirus cases – without risking a second wave of viruses.
Asked about Fauci’s statement, Birx told Chris Wallace of Fox News that the guidelines Fauci was referring to were based on “very solid evidence and data”.
Birx also implicitly supported the concerns of California Governor Gavin Newsom, who was criticized this week for temporarily closing Orange County beaches after being crowded with bathers over the weekend.
More than 2,500 people demonstrated on Friday in California’s governor’s decision to temporarily close Orange County’s beaches to maintain an appropriate distance.
When asked on Sunday whether the crowded beaches in California had been safe, Birx said Newsom believed crowded beaches could pose health risks: “If it is done with social remoteness, yes. If you don’t do it with social isolation, no, “she told Fox. News ‘Wallace.
Also on Friday, more than 30 people were arrested in a demonstration of about 1,000 people at the California State Capitol, according to the California Highway Patrol. Aerial photos showed the protesters huddled together carrying American flags, and many chose not to wear face covers.
Legal pressures on governors
The battle for closings is now increasingly in the courts. Michigan Republican lawmakers have threatened Whitmer, who recently extended Michigan’s house arrest until May 15, with legal action claiming that she is abusing her power.
Newsom also faces mounting legal challenges after ordering the closure of all Orange County beaches on Thursday. The Democratic Governor, who enforced the California home stay order on March 19 “until further notice”, was irritated by the crowd that gathered on the beaches of Orange County – in violation of social distancing guidelines – last weekend when temperatures rose to summer levels.
California emergency services director Mark Ghilarducci explained the new closings in a letter to Newport Beach City Council members on Friday, saying the crowds on the beach had created “dangerous conditions” “Which” threatened the health of beach visitors and community members. who have not visited the beach but are at risk of further spread of the virus, including first responders and health care providers. ”
Before Newsom’s Orange County ordinance, which he hoped would be temporary, counties and cities had made individual decisions about closing or opening beaches. Some had chosen to allow walkers, runners and surfers, for example, but discouraged sunbathing or congregating on the beach by closing parking lots, public restrooms and certain bike paths – while keeping public officials like park wardens visible to encourage physical distance through social pressure.
Newport Beach City Council on Saturday voted to support the lawsuit filed by Huntington Beach, Dana Point and other business owners to reopen the beaches in Orange County.
In city lawsuit, they allege that even if Newsom is currently acting under emergency powers (which he invoked on March 4), he does not have the right to usurp “the independent jurisdiction of municipalities local, who respond directly to their residents. In the trial, state prosecutors noted that Orange County “has an extremely small number of people affected by COVID-19”.
Likewise in Michigan, members of the GOP-controlled legislature say that Whitmer is acting beyond the limits of his power, forcing her to use a decree to maintain a state of emergency until May 28. She said Thursday evening at a town hall meeting that anyone who declared “mission accomplished” turns a blind eye “to the fact that more than 600 people have died in the past 72 hours”.
“She behaves like a dictator,” Ryan Kelley, organizer of the protest, told CNN. “And she doesn’t want to be cooperative. There has been a lot of overshoot and it is putting people in bad shape. “
Michigan Senate minority leader Jim Ananich, a Democrat from Flint, said in a statement that the protesters were physically intimidating and accused them of “causing chaos in the midst of a global pandemic”.
“This demonstration was not about staying at home, it was an opportunity for a small group of people – very few of them engaged in social distancing or wearing masks – to show their posters to swastika, their Confederate flags, bows hanging from cars and placards calling for murder, “said Ananich. “The police, staff, press and elected members of the Capitol do not threaten our activities here in Michigan. “
CNN’s Nicky Robertson, Rebekah Riess and Sarah Moon contributed to this report.