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I saw on the news some Michiganders are defying and protesting Protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Stay-At-Home Order. Social distancing against COVID19 appears self-explanatory to most Canadians (excluding some Vancouverites), Europeans and Asians, like the British, Hong Kongers, Singaporeans, South Koreans I've talked to.

  1. Which other U.S. states have these protesters?

  2. Do they not know about, or compare themselves with, other countries or U.S. states that are social distancing?

    Michigan Conservatives ‘Not Concerned’ About COVID-19 Block Ambulance During Protest Against Social Distancing

    “When it’s my time to go, God’s going to call me home,” said Ashley Smith, cofounder of “ReopenNC,” a conservative group which seeks the easing of social restrictions in North Carolina. “I think that to live is inherently to take risks. I’m not concerned about this virus any more than I am about the flu.”

  3. I don't understand this reasoning. Why are they risking COVID19? Do they not trust scientists and doctors like Dr. Fauci who said "to expect more cases as states reopen"?

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    This q is somewhat broad, by the way. #1 is fairly different from the title question (which is also #2-#3). You could ask separately for a list of protests. Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 10:38

6 Answers 6


“I think that to live is inherently to take risks. I’m not concerned about this virus any more than I am about the flu.”

To explain this: when you live, you are taking risks. For example:

Why do people continue to do these things anyway? The reason is fairly obvious, they do not view these things as very likely and/or even if it happens, the consequences are not dire enough to be worth avoiding the risk. "Sure, some people get knocked down by cars, but the odds of that happening to me are very low, and even if I get knocked down it would just be God calling me home." You might find this irrational, or you might not, but that's what they believe (and you make similar choices).

The same goes for COVID-19. The people protesting don't see the chances of them being affected as very high, and they feel that if they are infected, the worst consequence (death) is not likely enough to be a concern.

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    Was generally agreeing until the reference to God calling people home. Plenty on non-religious people can conclude that there is inherent risk in mundane activities. It is possible to simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    – acpilot
    Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 17:41

This particular protest is far more localized and gained publicity because of the unusual circumstances surrounding it.

Most states have closed "non-essential" businesses. That usually includes stores that only sell things like clothing, electronics, furniture, etc. Grocery stores are, of course, essential and are allowed to remain open. The catch there is that larger chains (such as Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, etc) sell groceries and those other items. As such, they get to remain open and sell those items not related to groceries. Other states have allowed this, because there's not any significant risk in letting people go to those stores to buy groceries and clothing, etc.

Michigan, however, has chosen to be more restrictive

Governor Whitmer’s stay-at-home order is considered one of the most restrictive in the nation. Along with prohibiting garden centers and plant nurseries [from selling plants], the order prohibits the sale of carpeting, flooring, furniture, and paint. It also blocks Michiganders from using motorboats and vacation properties.

This is prompting considerable criticism from more than just protesters

"While we can come up with all sorts of scenarios where we can make an argument that someone is safe in whatever activity it is they want to do, every single exception to a Stay Home, Stay Safe order makes this more porous and makes it less likely to work," Whitmer said Thursday.

But House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, tweeted Friday that of 26 states relying on the federal guidance for their restrictions, 20 are using the most recent guidance.

Of the 26 states that are currently utilizing CISA, 20 are using the most recent guidelines. Michigan is an outlier & it’s holding our state back unnecessarily. We can take COVID-19 seriously, protect public health and be more data-driven. These two options allow for that.

That having been said, protests in general are not necessarily unique to Michigan. CNN covered protests in Minnesota, Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah and Ohio

In Columbus, demonstrators also gathered outside the statehouse, where they were overheard during Gov. Mike DeWine's briefing on Monday, CNN affiliate WSYX reported. Demonstrators carried signs and bullhorns, chanting, "Reopen Ohio," WSYX reported.

These are not the norm, however. Most Americans do not agree with the protesters

Eighty-one percent of the people say that the Covid-19 pandemic has created a “national emergency” (Economist/YouGov). Sixty-six percent believe that it is a “major threat” to the health of the U.S. population, 88% say that it is a major threat to the economy (Pew), and 57% say that the country is “at war” with the coronavirus (Economist/YouGov). Only 3 in 10 say that the threat has been exaggerated for political reasons (Economist/YouGov).

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    Also notable is that the Michigan group appears to be using the opportunity to protest a governor they already don't like. Whitmer dismissed this protest as a "political stunt," for what it's worth. Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 15:21
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    I tend to agree that this was a stunt picked up for the purposes of a news story, but Whitmer also dodged the broader criticism of her policies
    – Machavity
    Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 15:42

In addition they probably don't care about infecting and killing others much. The fact that infecting others is a (negative) externality is being much discussed by economists in such context; see related q here. And the propagation of memes like "boomer doomer" etc. attests to that.

See also some quotes in this q which a few of those at the receiving end of the negative externality basically think they're doing it as a sacrifice for the young generation's future, in the sense of preserving societal values.

Finally, there have been various religiously inspired theories as to what actually caused Covid-19 and consequently who is at risk etc.


There are many different reasons that people are protesting the ever continuing lock-downs across the country. Many believe restrictions to be too burdensome, arbitrary, or creating more problems than they are solving.

Specifically for Michigan, which is currently one of the most affected states. The protest there was a response to the extension and expansion of Governor Whitmer's stay at home order. This order was fairly unique in prohibiting travel between owned properties, which many believe to be unconstitutional. There are also those who complain of fairly arbitrary restrictions, like allowing non-motorboats to be used but prohibiting motorboats. Others point out that the lottery is still allowed to operate despite being a poster child for non-essential service, especially after ordering stores to close non-essential sections.

More nationally many are seeing their lifestyle completely destroyed. There are many small business that are not going to re-open, their owners and employees are facing job searches which based on the last recession could take years. Others have lost their jobs and unemployment isn't enough to stay afloat. Suddenly there are many families that could be staring at homelessness or hunger in 3-6 months, which is far more scary to them than the small chance of some virus killing them. People can't just pause their lives for an indeterminate amount of time.


First, a disclaimer: This is my theory. I've heard some radio shows that mix news and politics that were in tacit support of this kind of stuff. A good way to apply the scientific principle and test the theory would be to talk to one of those who attended. Maybe you could find someone who participated and talk to them (online and virtually, of course)?


The first thing to remember is where this is happening. Both the state and the country (USA). Other answers have covered the state aspect -- extra strict rules -- so I will cover mainly the country aspect in this answer.

As a US citizen, something that has struck me while listening to people from other countries being interviewed about their thoughts on the US is the way people from other countries just don't get the "American" values and way of thinking. (American is in quotes because not all US citizens think this way; but the ones that do probably think the other ones are less patriotic (and less brave) for not thinking that way.)

This "American" (US) way of thinking encourages the individual to consider freedom as more important than their own life. It assumes that any government can become corrupted (gain too much power and limit freedoms too much), whether all at once, or just by accumulating a large amount of regulations. It is concerned with preserving the "escape hatch" for such situations, considering it a patriotic duty to protect the constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech, assembly, and to bear arms.

One of the litmus tests to see if "the government is becoming corrupted" is to attempt to exercise those rights. A partial failure of the test could be the start of a slippery slope where the government is consolidating power and attempting to remove the "escape hatch" option. Any failure must be corrected by the citizens heavily exercising those rights to pressure the government to back away from the slippery slope.


Also, you need to remember who you might be talking about. They seem to be supporters of Trump. Some (maybe most? I really don't have a good idea of the ratio on this, so take it as anecdote) Trump supporters have a pretty high distrust of most "news" (quotation marks theirs). As in they expect bias/recoloring/intentional omission of important details on any story that can at all be related to Trump anywhere from 95+% of the time (CNN, MSNBC) to 5-10% of the time (Fox).

For every data point the other side put out, they have their own take & explanation that delegitimizes it.

In their mind, they've been through a Russian election meddling hoax (some might explain the real story is the US Federal intelligence system, either through rouge employees or tacit approval at various leadership levels, authorized spying on an active presidential campaign).

In their mind, they've been through a sham impeachment attempt (they might say the real story is that Joe Biden improperly used influence to get a Ukrainian fired because he was investigating a corrupt oil/gas company that gave Joe Biden's son a cushy job).

Dr Fauci? Hillary Clinton supporter that said "from your doctor admirer" in a letter to her.

World Health Organization? Caught trying to help the Communist Party of China spin a worldwide disaster of their own making into a moment for them to emerge as the savior of the world while blaming the US for the pandemic.

CDC? Can't make up it's mind on if masks should be worn by the general public or not. Or can, but lied to us to try to control the market and ration N95 masks to save them for health professionals. Because of limited testing, potentially still doesn't actually know about asymptomatic cases, artificially raising the death rate percentage and maybe making getting this sound more serious than it actually is, especially for young/healthy people.

You see, in their mind, most every "authority" saying we need to be shutdown right now regardless of economic impact has been delegitimized, OR called into question, OR is not malicious, but prematurely trying to state facts in the middle of a pandemic before science actually knows OR is just reacting with shutdown instead of a proactive plan that doesn't destroy the economy. They've just heard the cry of "Wolf" from media they don't trust anyway too many times and don't think this is all that serious.

Voluntary Individual risk taking without community risk

At the same time, everyone who is actually afraid is sheltered at home. Thus, in their mind, their individual decision (freedom?) to go out does not affect those unwilling to take the risk of being infected. Thus, they are free to make a decision about personal risk with no guilt about risk to a community. In their mind, those out and about at things like this protest have voluntarily taken on the risk of getting infected with the "Wuhan virus". (I hope that either everyone living with them agrees, and/or they are quarantining themselves from those that don't or are at particular risk).

At the same time, their freedom of assembly, and movement in general is being restricted by the executive branch instead of through the proper one (legislature). Remember what I said their response to a failing litmus test is?

Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers, is quoted as saying: Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

So would you rather slavery or a chance of getting a virus that gives you a chance of death? If freedom is more important than your own personal life, why not go? Your government is stepping on the slippery slope of totalitarianism and you'd be a patriotic hero if you go and take personal risk to "fix" that. (Deep down, you don't actually think totalitarianism is going to happen, but the numbers from the CDC inflate the severity, but then again, you're young and healthy and don't actually think you would probably get anything other than an asymptomatic case.) And, you're sitting at home bored anyway -- even if you don't totally support the protest itself, you could go and watch from inside your car where you are "safe".


Don't discount the number of Trump supporters (clearly some, probably all) in that group. Most of the people pushing to reopen the economy are Trump boosters (Fox News, etc.) and his die-hard (no pun intended) supporters. The thinking is, the sooner we put this behind us, the sooner we will forget it, and the less damaging it will be to Trump's re-election campaign. Without even considering his leadership and other issues during this crisis, the simple fact is that it is really hard for a President to get re-elected in a bad economy.

From the Washington Post, April 13:

Part of the impetus for the conservative group effort is political. Many conservatives, who had long counted on a roaring economy to lift the GOP in November, are increasingly uneasy about the party’s chances if businesses remain shuttered.

“Obviously, the sooner we get the economy going and back up, the better it’s going to be for conservatives and Republicans in this election year,” veteran tea-party organizer Richard Viguerie said in an interview. “A lot of Republicans and conservatives feel there might be an overreaction to all of this. We’re all anxious to get back. Conservatives feel the government has overreacted, and it’s got to end.”

Multiple other leading conservative groups are expected to join the effort. The coalition started lobbying Republican lawmakers last week and also is working to influence the White House’s thinking.

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    This type of answer would be greatly improved by some evidence that Trump himself has been pushing for an early reduction on COVID-19 restrictions - it's not as if this isn't an argument to be made, but the actual argument could use some significant improvement.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 15:28
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    I think Trump's "LIBERATE!" tweets are also good evidence that he's pushing these protests
    – divibisan
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 15:05