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Coronavirus: US protests call for lifting restrictions as death toll rises

Published: Updated:

Protests flared in US states on Sunday over stay-at-home orders while governors disputed President Donald Trump’s claims they have enough tests for the novel coronavirus and should quickly reopen their economies.

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An estimated 2,500 people rallied at the Washington state capitol in Olympia to protest Democratic Governor Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, defying a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people.

Despite pleas from rally organizers to wear face coverings or masks as public health authorities recommend, many did not.

“Shutting down businesses by picking winners and losers in which there are essential and non-essential are violations of the state and federal constitution,” rally organizer Tyler Miller, 39, an engineer from Bremerton, Washington, told Reuters.

Protesters demanding Florida businesses and government reopen, march in downtown Orlando, Fla. (Reuters)
Protesters demanding Florida businesses and government reopen, march in downtown Orlando, Fla. (Reuters)

In Denver, hundreds of people gathered at the state capitol to demand the end to Colorado’s shutdown. As protesters clogged streets with cars, healthcare workers in scrubs and face masks stood at intersections in counter protest.

Stay-at-home measures, which experts say are essential to slow the spread of the virus, have battered the US economy and more than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past month.

Demonstrations to demand an end have previously erupted in a few spots in Texas, Wisconsin and the capitols of Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia.

“These people love our country,” Trump, who has touted a thriving economy as the best case for his re-election in November, told a briefing in Washington on Sunday. “They want to get back to work.”

In New York, the US epicenter of the pandemic, hospitalizations continued decline to 16,000 from a high of 18,000, and the number of patients being kept alive by ventilators also fell.

There were 507 new deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, down from a high of more than 700 a day.

“If the data holds and if this trend holds, we are past the high point and all indications at this point are that we are on a descent,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a daily briefing, while urging residents to continue social distancing.

To get a baseline of how many people were infected with the novel coronavirus, Cuomo said the state would do the most aggressive anti-body testing in the nation in the next week using a random sample.