Opinion: Without Action, Lockdown Protesters Will Soon Have a Real Argument

Kevin Duffy, Writer

In mid-March, hundreds of millions of Americans effectively pressed the pause button on their lives.

Schools shut down nationwide, places of business sent workers home, or worse, on their own, and public gatherings have been all but eliminated. Live sports have been canceled, concerts postponed, and social distancing measures put into place at essential businesses like grocery stores.

For the most part, many Americans have rightfully taken this virus seriously, and we have succeeded in “flattening the curve.” In the battle against the virus, we do not live in the worst of all possible worlds.

Despite the constant stream of negativity on display on the news during this time, it is important to know that we are truly having an impact on how the virus has spread, and for the most part, we have been winning. 

Some, however, have taken to the streets, displeased with being told to stay at home for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. It may be disheartening for many who take stay-at-home orders to see many outright ignoring them, in what seem from the outside to be politically motivated protests, but the hard reality is that if we continue to see a lack of speed-up in testing availability and medical capacity, especially in America’s more rural areas over the next few months, many of these angry and politically motivated protesters will have a legitimate point.

This is simply an unsustainable way to live. Massive crises, far more wide-reaching than just the virus itself will happen if we continue to force people to stay home come July, August, or until we have a vaccine. This is simply not how we are supposed to live. We have to get the American public back to work, back in schools, back on airplanes, back in stadiums, and back spending money in American businesses. Without it, the massive economic collapse and massive mental health challenges that many may face can cost us more lives than the actual transmission of the disease. 

Lives are dependent on restaurants serving food, airplanes flying, people traveling, and spending time outside of the confines of their homes. Many of our most vulnerable will lose their jobs, lose their homes, lose access to food they need, and face challenges that would have been considered unimaginable four months ago.

Come June, many of the protesters who are refusing to abide by stay-at-home and social distancing order will start to look more and more legitimate, and their concerns cannot and will not be so easily dismissed. 

So, how do we move forward? The only answer is to test, test, and test again. We simply cannot sit and wait a year for a vaccine only to find that the “cure” of locking everything down has brought the world of 2021 to its knees. Testing on a massive and wide scale is the only way out of the proverbial hole we have dug for ourselves. Millions should be tested every single day, and regularly as well. Test results need to be delivered in hours, not days, and they should be completely free.

Logistical challenges such as how we administer tests to those in rural areas, homeless populations, or those simply not willing to get one themselves remains a looming question, but call it what it is, this is our “man on the moon” moment, and there is simply no way around it.

While it does remain important to take the virus seriously and stay at home, for now, we simply cannot continue to live like this for another year. If we do, the death toll will come not from the virus, but instead from those struggling to buy food, find work, and even, most tragically, suicide. The “flatten the curve” line that became a national modo in March should be revised to “get a test.”

The choice to return the economy back to a sense of normalcy is completely dependent on whether or not testing becomes not only readily available but also readily administered.