Anti-stay-at-home protesters at the Pennsylvania capitol on Monday were met with a counterprotest from local ICU nurses.
Thousands of people flocked to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to voice their concerns after Gov. Tom Wolf extended the state’s shelter-in-place order until May 8.
More than 97% of the US population is currently under a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend everyone’s lives.
Covid-19 has infected more than 2.4 million people and killed at least 165,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 40,000 people have died in the US alone. But some worry about the impact stay-at-home orders will have on the economy, and people’s mental health.
The group of nurses who showed up to counterprotest in Pennsylvania stood about a block away from the main protest, holding signs telling those who opposed the stay-at-home order that they should return home.
Nurses are among the many health care workers on the front lines helping combat the spread of coronavirus.
Katrina Rectenwald, a nurse who was among the counterprotesters, held a sign that read: “I Don’t Want You In My ICU…Stay Home!”
“We don’t think we have enough equipment in all the hospitals in PA to take care of all the patients that are going to be coming in based on us getting a surge,” Rectenwald told CNN affiliate WHTM.
Yetta Timothy, another nurse at the counterprotest, expressed a similar sentiment when explaining how she felt about people not practicing social distancing.
“It is unreal, I broke down earlier,” Timothy told WHTM. “I could not believe it.”
They weren’t alone in counterprotesting. Across the country, another small group of health care workers counterprotested at a large rally in Denver, Colorado. Photos and video from the protest showed a small number of workers dressed in scrubs and protective masks standing in a crosswalk blocking the vehicles.
Anti-quarantine protests have spread across the US, in both red and blue states.
“Jesus is my vaccine,” said one message on a tractor as it drove past the crowded statehouse in Harrisburg.
President Donald Trump over the weekend defended anti-quarantine protesters as “great people.”
“These people love our country, they want to get back to work,” he said.
In recent days Trump has encouraged governors to relax those guidelines as soon as they feel it’s safe to do so.
But some governors, including Wolf, aren’t budging.
“It is clear that our early and aggressive efforts to mitigate this spread of this highly contagious and deadly virus are working,” Wolf said in a statement announcing the continuation of Pennsylvania’s social distancing efforts.
“While we begin to seek ways to move forward, it’s imperative that we continue to take strong precautions to protect Pennsylvanians and ensure that our health care system is not overwhelmed.”
He urged protesters in the state to “please stay safe.”
“Obviously this a democracy everyone has a right to express their opinions,” he said. “I’m just hoping that they (protesters) like every other Pennsylvanian recognizes that we want to keep each other safe so social distancing is part of that proposition…We want you to be safe that’s what we’re trying to do here – we want to make sure that we do everything we can to keep Pennsylvanians safe, that includes you.”
CNN’s Nicky Robertson, Kristina Sgueglia, and Holly Yan contributed to this report.