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20 States Hold Protests to Reopen the Economy, Many Governors Want More Testing First

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  • Following a handful of protests last week, demonstrators in 20 states held protests calling for leaders to reopen the economy and put employees back to work.
  • At one Colorado demonstration, two medical workers blocked lines of protesters in vehicles from approaching the state capital.
  • President Donald has issued support for these protesters, saying that some states’ governors have gone too far with stay-at-home orders.
  • Governors, in turn, have criticized and urged the Trump Administration to provide more testing materials so they can accurately gauge if they can start to reopen their economies.

Medical Workers Standoff With Colorado Protests

Demonstrators in multiple states held protests against state stay-at-home orders over the weekend, and in some cases, there were met with counter-protesters. 

Such was the case in Denver, where two medical workers stood at a crosswalk and blocked lines of vehicles filled with protesters aiming to clog the city streets around Colorado’s capital. 

“This is a free country!” one woman shouted at one of the medical workers as he stood in front of her truck. “Go to China if you want Communism! Go to China! You can go to work, why can’t I go to work?” 

That specific interaction later went viral, and “go to China” trended on Twitter Monday morning. 

Colorado’s protest invoked the same name used in similar protest in Michigan last week: Operation Gridlock. In these protests, designed to literally gridlock the streets around state capitol buildings, demonstrators have called for an end to lockdown measures and for nonessential businesses to reopen.

Since Michigan and a handful of other smaller state protests last week, at least 20 states have held gatherings aimed at relaxing coronavirus-related measures, including Texas, Maryland, Minnesota, Virgina, Tennessee, and Arizona.

Like in Michigan, a lot of people remained in their cars, socially distancing themselves from others; however, others also left their cars and marched in crowds, disregarding social distancing orders. 

In Texas, footage shows small children participating in such marches and even parents carrying infants. At that march, which was held on Saturday, protesters at times chanted, “Let us work!” and “Fire Fauci!”

“I think about the fear that was instilled in me from the initial shock of the outbreak, and it was too much,” protester Nathanael Curling told the Austin American-Statesman. “I don’t even get sick hardly anyways. I’m not going to catch the virus. I’m not rubbing up on people, coughing on people in public. You know, I’m not worried about transmitting a virus that’s just like another flu.” 

Health experts have repeatedly told people that this virus isn’t like the seasonal flu. This is because not only is this virus completely new and therefore easily spread, there also is no vaccine at the moment. 

Many people, however, are growing increasingly frustrated after losing their jobs or being furloughed until restrictions ease. For a lot of them, that means not being able to pay this month’s rent or other bills. As of Thursday, 22 million people have lost their jobs, wiping out a decade of job gains in the matter of a month.

But like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has argued, protests like this might only cause stay-at-home orders to be extended if cities or states experience spikes afterward.

Trump Supports Protesters

Despite his current issue of a stay-at-home recommendation until April 30, President Donald Trump appeared to support protesters on Friday.

In the first of a series of tweets, he called to “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” Following that, Trump tweeted similar messages for Michigan and Virginia.

The president’s seeming support for such protests was met with intense criticism from Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D), who said the president’s tweets had the potential to incite violence. 

“The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts,” Inslee said “He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.” 

“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies – even while his own administration says the virus is real, it is deadly and we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted,” he added. 

On Sunday, at the direction of a reporter, Trump was sympathetic to those protesters’ cause and falsely said that all demonstrators had maintained social distancing. 

“If people feel that way, you’re allowed to protest,” he said. “I mean, they feel that way. I watched the protest, and they were all six feet apart. I mean, it was a very orderly group of people, but you know, some have gone too far. Some governors have gone too far. Some of the things that have happened are maybe not so appropriate, and I think in the end, it’s not going to matter because we’re starting to open up our states, and I think they’re going to open up very well. 

States Begin to Reopen

In fact, some states have already begun to issue preliminary rollbacks on closures. 

Notably, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) gave the green light for some cities and counties to reopen beaches with restricted hours. While people aren’t allowed to sunbathe, they can still walk, swim and even fish. Once those beaches were opened on Saturday people flocked. In Jacksonville, aerial footage shows the beach flooded with visitors.

DeSantis’ move has also received some pushback because the same day, Florida recorded a record number of cases with 1,400 within 24 hours. 

In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz (D) signed an executive order reopening outdoor recreational businesses like golf courses and bait shops.

On Saturday, New York, Connectiticut, and New Jersey announced they would begin reopening marinas and boatyards.

Texas is also expected to lift some restrictions later this week by allowing what Governor Greb Abbott (R) calls “retail to-go,” which allows nonessential businesses to deliver or have customers pick up merchandise, though customers won’t be allowed to shop in store.

Trump and Governors Spar Over Testing

Still, things are moving slowly, and even with some of these reopenings, governors have criticized Trump for not doing enough to help states when it comes to testing. That includes providing equipment like swabs, reagents, and other chemical solutions required to run tests. 

The U.S. has been averaging about 146,000 tests a day, but state officials and public health experts have argued that number needs to be in the several hundred thousand or even millions each day. Last week, researchers at Harvard estimated that, in order to ease restrictions, testing needed to triple its current pace of testing. 

At the same time, though, Trump has said that governors are responsible for testing, also saying, “The United States has the most robust, advanced, and accurate testing system in anywhere in the world.”

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) later pushed back against those claims on CNN, saying, “To try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing, and they should just get to work on testing, somehow we aren’t doing our job, is just absolutely false.

“Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests, not only from the federal government, but from every private lab in America and from all across the world,” he added.

Virginia Governor and physician Ralph Northam (D) also criticized Trump’s response on CNN.

“We’ve been fighting for testing,” he said. “It’s not a straightforward test. We don’t even have enough swabs, believe it or not. And we’re ramping that up. But for the national level to say we have what we need, and really to have no guidance to the state levels is just irresponsible because we’re not there yet.” 

Others like Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) have argued that only the federal government has the decision to tell the FDA to prioritize companies that are“putting a slightly different formula together.” 

DeWine went on to say that if the FDA would do that, he could probably double or even triple testing in Ohio.

Following concerns like that, Trump announced Sunday that the federal government was preparing millions of more swabs, though he stopped short of saying he would provide reagents. 

“We also are going to be using, and we’re preparing to use the Defense Production Act to increase swab production in one U.S. facility by over 20 million additional swabs per month,” Trump said. “We’ve had a little difficulty with one. So we’re going to call in — as we have in the past, as you know, we’re calling in the Defense Production Act, and we’ll be getting swabs very easily. Swabs are easy.” 

“We have millions coming in,” Trump later added while defending himself and hitting back against critical governors. “They’re very easy. In all fairness, governors could get them themselves. But we are going to do it. We’ll work with the governors and if they can’t do it we’ll do it.” 

On Monday morning, Trump accused Democratic governors of playing “a very dangerous political game.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (CNN) (The Hill)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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