Protesters demand that curbs imposed to prevent spread of virus be lifted or relaxed
With more than 97 percent of the population under stay-at-home mandates, some states in the United States have started to ease restrictions as protesters in other states took to the streets demanding restrictions be lifted or relaxed.
President Donald Trump on Saturday said Texas, Vermont, Montana, Ohio, North Dakota and Idaho are taking steps toward a "safe, gradual and phased opening".He said some protesters are responding to governors who "have gotten carried away" with restrictive measures, particularly criticizing Michigan and Virginia.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said he was starting a "phased-in" approach to reopen the state economy, including lifting some restrictions in the coming days on non-virus medical procedures, shopping and state parks.
On Friday, beaches and parks in Jacksonville, Florida, were reopened after Governor Ron DeSantis gave his approval.
More than 25,000 people in Florida have been infected with COVID-19, and schools, business and public events are all closed or canceled to try to slow its spread.
On Saturday, protesters rallied in Austin, Texas. It was organized by InfoWars, a controversial website that has promoted conspiracy theories. "Fire Fauci," the crowd chanted, referring to Anthony Fauci, the Trump administration's top infectious disease expert who has been a strong advocate of social distancing efforts.
At a rally in Annapolis, Maryland, on Saturday, "Reopen Maryland", the group behind the protest, called on participants to follow all laws, including social distancing restrictions. Cars honked horns and passengers waved American flags.
Social distancing efforts have saved many American lives, according to White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, who on Saturday cited data showing the U.S. has a lower per capita death rate than multiple European countries. She attributed that to "the amazing work of the American people to really adhere to social distancing".
The protests on Saturday followed rallies held on Friday in the state capitals of Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia.
Trump said on April 16 that he was leaving it up to governors to decide when and how to reopen their states, but the next day he openly encouraged protesters in those three states with rapid-fire tweets: "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" Trump wrote, followed by "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" and then "LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!"
Democratic governors run the states and all are seen as important for Trump in the coming presidential election.