Throughout November, coronavirus cases nationwide have surged. There is no immediate end to the pandemic in sight — but rather than supporting governors in protecting their constituents, federal officials are once again railing against safety measures. Over the weekend, President Trump's coronavirus adviser told Michigan to "rise up" against the state's new restrictions.
In September, health experts predicted a "second wave" of coronavirus as the United States moved into flu season, with some warning that it may be worse than the initial wave. Right now, it seems that the U.S. is on track for that to be the case, having recently set a new record after surpassing 1 million new coronavirus cases in a week. In response, a number of states nationwide are tightening up restrictions. On Sunday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and the state's Department of Health and Human services issued a new three-week emergency order.
Michigan's new restrictions include halts on in-person classes for both high schools and colleges. In addition, restaurants will be closed to indoor dining, gyms will close to group classes, and entertainment facilities like theaters will have to shut down completely.
In its announcement, Michigan's health department noted that the state has a seven-day average of 512 cases per million people. which is five times higher than its case rate on Oct. 1. Given the increase in cases, these restrictions are the best bet in ensuring that the state's health care system does not become overrun.
But shortly after Michigan announced these changes, White House coronavirus task force member Scott Atlas tweeted, "The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #Freedom Matters #StepUp." Atlas has emerged as President Trump's favored coronavirus adviser, while other medical experts like Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx have been sidelined.
This isn't the first time that an official has used Twitter to encourage people to go against basic safety measures in the middle of a pandemic. Despite Trump privately telling governors that they would "call [their] own shots" at the start of the pandemic, he once encouraged right-wing protesters to "liberate" Democratic states — including Whitmer's Michigan. Last month, it was reported that Whitmer, who has been a favorite target of the president's, was the target of an armed coup plot that was foiled by federal agents.
Atlas did backtrack on part of his tweet. Just a few hours after his original message, he tweeted, "I NEVER was talking at all about violence. People vote, people peacefully protest. NEVER would I endorse or incite violence. NEVER!!"
Still, it's alarming to see such a careless tweet from somebody who is a central part of the current administration's coronavirus task force. For her part, Whitmer does not seem to be too concerned; she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "We know that the White House likes to single us out here in Michigan, me out in particular. I'm not going to be bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals."
"If everyone does their part, we will see a big benefit [from the new restrictions]," Whitmer added. "But we'll be assessing it every step of the way."