MIAMI, Fla. – Dozens of people gathered outside the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami on Sunday. They weren’t wearing masks and they weren’t practicing social distancing while protesting the lockdowns and shutdowns put in place by state and local governments in response to COVID-19.
They believe rules have been put in place, not in response to facts, but out of fear. But officials who are making these decisions are conferring with doctors and infectious disease experts.
Josie Machovic, one of Sunday's organizers of the demonstration, said that locking healthy people up is "tyranny." She said the group out protesting was made up of people of different political and religious beliefs.
"Our goal is to unite. We are one people. A free people," Machovic said.
Machovic cited the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus death toll, which as of May 1 stood at more than 37,000 people. However, the official death count is more than 65,000 people, and includes both confirmed and probably cases.
“While it’s sad, we are in a country of over 300 million people. It doesn’t make any sense for people in this country to be locked up in their homes anymore. We’re losing businesses and livelihoods. And futures for our children.”
Officials have consulted with medical experts to develop their plans, such as infectious disease expert Aileen Marty, M.D., of Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. She also works with the World Health Organization and has responded to disease outbreaks around the world.
"if you open too soon, the economic consequence, let alone the medical consequences, will be worse because you will get another rapid rise in cases,” Marty said.
Leaders in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties have implemented what they are calling “Phase 1 reopening” with outdoor spaces like marinas and parks back open with some restrictions still in place.
Fort Lauderdale’s Mayor Dean Trantalis is eager to get his city reopened. “We’re at that point now, we’re ready to open up. People of this community want to get back to work."
Others like Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez said his city is not opening up in any way just yet.
"The state has said we’re not ready to reopen, so that’s the concern that I had."
As for the group at Freedom Tower on Sunday, they say they have a message for those at home who might be judging them.
“To the people who think we’re crazy or thinking that we are trying to make people sick, we’re not. We just want our cities and our lives to go back to normal.”
Although the group is passionate, they are in a minority according to one of the latest polls. Nearly three-in-four voters, 73 percent, think Americans should continue social distancing, even if it means continued damage to the U.S. economy. Just 15 percent say social distancing should end to boost the economy, even if the virus spreads, according to the POLITICO/Morning Consult.