Hundreds of Delawareans are expected to turn out at multiple demonstrations today calling on Governor Carney to accelerate the reopening of the state’s economy.
Two separate “Reopen Delaware” groups will demonstrate at Noon — one in front of Governor Carney’s office at the Caravel office building in Wilmington and one at Legislative Hall in Dover.
Turnout at the “Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine” rally in Dover is expected to be much larger than the one in Wilmington — with between 500 and 700 protesters. Members of Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine expect about 10% of their 6,642 Facebook followers to show up.
Organizers of the Dover event will begin with a parade of cars around the state capitol followed by a rally on the green. At least two state legislators and protest leaders plan to speak at the event.
Organizers were down in Dover early this morning taping the roads around Legislative Mall with squares to mark where people should stand to encourage proper social distance spacing between protesters.
They say the closure has caused risk and harm to both residents and businesses, and they want to show solidarity with “non-essential” businesses that remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Delaware Department of Labor, nearly 80,000 people are now out of work in the state, and local nonprofits remain closed or partially closed with diminished opportunities to serve the vulnerable and needy.
“Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine” members say they know that expressing an opinion contrary to the messaging of public health officials is a dangerous proposition.
One University of Delaware professor who will be at the rally today agreed to share his concerns but requested to remain anonymous in this article.
“There are so few people at UD who are able to talk publicly about this, and they’ve essentially been silenced anyway. We’ve been instructed not to be oppositional. It’s the culture of Delaware isn’t it? And it’s the culture we’re seeing — if anyone steps out of line with this conversation, they get marginalized, or punished.”
The professor added, “We’re just trying to pursue truth here. You want an opportunity for good dialogue and debate to occur. And this is the first time I’ve ever seen an issue like this, in this country, where only one voice is allowed to be heard and only one truth is allowed to be pursued. And as a result of that, we’ve, we’ve worked ourselves into a very messy situation that’s going to have far-reaching consequences, even greater than this virus.”
Donna Marshall, a Wilmington resident and local real estate agent, is one of the Facebook page administrators. She is stunned by the reaction of her views and those of the others who have joined their group.
“I’m putting my career on the line. I’ve had people threaten my livelihood. That opposition group has published my [professional] information, and somebody submitted a really bad Yelp review — somebody that I’d never heard of or ever met. This is what we’re dealing with on the other side,” said Marshall.
The other group Marshall is referring to is the Facebook group “Delawareans Against ‘Delawareanst Against Excessive Quarantine,'” which is protesting the protestors who want to protest the quarantine. That group has about 1,200 members.
Members of Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine say they are not challenging the science. They agree with public health officials that there would have been higher numbers of case positives of COVID-19 and a higher death rate if there had not been a stay-at-home-order. There are now 4,734 cases of COVID-19, nearly 300 people hospitalized and 152 who have died due to the virus.
The group is challenging the methodology the Governor is using for reopening the economy, which calls for a significant ramp-up in statewide testing and the hiring of 200 more contact tracers, followed by 28 days of declining cases of the disease.
Protesters maintain the state needs to have a path towards health, economic, and social recovery that begins immediately.
Yesterday Republican House members issued a letter to Governor Carney calling on him to revise his plans to reopen the economy. The two separate rallying groups and House Republicans say many small businesses, which make up more than 90% of all businesses in the state, may not survive a prolonged closure.
The University of Delaware professor says the state needs to re-think the unintended consequences of a prolonged closure.
“We work from this concept in public health called the precautionary principle — that we do no harm in any intervention that we deploy that we need to think carefully through the notion of unintended consequences. And what would the ramifications be if we implement that solution on other issues,” he said.
In a report published on April 21 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45% of adults across the country indicated that their levels of mental health were negatively impacted as a result of the shutdown. The foundation says the survey results are an early sign that the “health and economic crises is likely to increase mental health problems and further stretch the system’s capacity.”
The University of Delaware professor who will attend today’s protest says he and others hope the Governor will consider the advice of state health officials along with concerns of businesses, who are voicing their concerns at multiple virtual town hall meetings this week and next with the Governor and members of his staff.
“This was not carefully thought out. We deployed strictly from the perspective we need to separate people with this notion of starving the virus — you’re not going to starve this virus. We have to learn how to adapt and live a life which this country was built upon with that virus. And I understand the notion of trying to manage the overwhelming amount of people that could have been in healthcare, but the consequences here that we’re seeing in the data that are coming out now that are emerging is that all the bad indicators are rising markedly issues around depression and anxiety and attempted suicide and suicide, alcohol, drug and tobacco use are skyrocketing directly. All the things that you don’t want to see behaviourally are rising tremendously,” he said.