Photo of a social distancing sign in Florida by Jared Hopkins on Unsplash

With the 2020 presidential election approaching amid fears of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing safety measures are becoming a partisan issue in the United States.

President Trump is holding his first campaign rally in months on June 20 in Tusla. Social distancing will reportedly not be enforced at the rally, and the use of CDC recommended cloth masks will be optional. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted that the rally attendees would receive temperature checks, masks, and hand sanitizer upon admittance.

Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Bruce Dart warned that the city was not ready for large gatherings given the recent rise in active coronavirus cases. He stated, “ I think we have the responsibility to stand up when things are happening that I think are going to be dangerous for our community, which it will be.”

Many have begun to raise concerns about potential bias in media coverage regarding adherence to social distancing guidelines, specifically highlighting the difference in coverage regarding anti-lockdown protests and protests against police brutality. Some journalists took screenshots of side-by-side headlines from the same publication on the same day, alledging a partisan-based difference in coverage. Many health officials showed open support for the protests, despite social distancing guidelines still in place at the time. White Coats for Black Lives organizer Dr. Dorothy Charles stated, “Risking coronavirus pales in comparison to all the other ways we can die.”

The CDC recently revised guidelines for those attending protests, with Dr. Anthony Fauci stating that it is “a danger” and “risky” for protestors to attend rallies of any kind, adding that it is safest to avoid gathering in large groups. Some have taken this shift in the narrative around social distancing as hypocritical, arguing that they have not been allowed to visit loved ones on their death beds while large gatherings at protests are being encouraged by medical professionals.

Some Catholic and Orthodox Jewish leaders are suing New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for showing support for protests while shutting down religious institutions over coronavirus concerns. Jewish community members used bolt cutters to re-open Middleton Playground in Brooklyn on Monday.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

New Yorkers Are Backsliding on Social Distancing – New York Times – 6/16/2020
New York City has turned a corner in the coronavirus outbreak, but recently a troubling sign has emerged: People are openly disregarding measures requiring social distancing and face coverings, some of the very steps that officials said helped New York rebound. And enforcement of rules is lax.

NY State Lawmaker Pledges To ‘Cut Off The Chains’ And Open Playgrounds If Mayor De Blasio Doesn’t Drop Ban – The Daily Wire – 6/15/2020
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy participated in a protest while he kept his state under a stay-at-home order and still had businesses closed. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf admitted that going to a protest after declaring social distancing a top priority was “inconsistent.” “I did lose trust in my governor and other public officials when they praised the protests but still do not allow most businesses to open,” said Laoutaris. Fighting against racism and police brutality is important, but if people gather thousands to protest, businesses should be allowed to be open, she said.

We have to protect each other from the coronavirus – Vox – 6/15/2020
Perhaps a helpful way to think about the risk is this: Imagine everyone is smoking, as Ed Yong suggested in the Atlantic, and you’d like to avoid inhaling as much smoke as possible. In a cramped indoor space, that smoke is going to get dense and heavy fast. If the windows are open, some of that smoke will blow away. If fewer people are in the space, less smoke will accumulate, and it might not waft over to you if you’re standing far enough away. But spend a lot of time in an enclosed space with those people, and the smoke grows denser.

Why social distance? People who stayed home askance at mass protests – Washington Examiner – 6/16/2020
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy participated in a protest while he kept his state under a stay-at-home order and still had businesses closed. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf admitted that going to a protest after declaring social distancing a top priority was “inconsistent.” “I did lose trust in my governor and other public officials when they praised the protests but still do not allow most businesses to open,” said Laoutaris. Fighting against racism and police brutality is important, but if people gather thousands to protest, businesses should be allowed to be open, she said.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Bernie Sanders on Twitter, 6/15/2020: Trump’s not only a terrible president, he is a threat to the health of the country. He’s rejected science, downplayed the danger of the virus and promoted quack remedies. Now he is holding an indoor rally without social distancing. For the sake of our health, he must be defeated.

Eli Lake on Twitter, 6/16/2020: Good piece. I would add one point to your argument about distrust in institutions. Many public health officials and governors and mayors accepted, and in some cases encouraged, participation in the BLM protests. That undermined the legitimacy of lockdowns and social distancing

Matt Schiavenza on Twitter, 6/15/2020: Saying that both are social distancing violations and therefore should be subject to the same standards is both sidesism — even leaving aside the fact that Trump’s rally will be indoors and far likelier to spread COVID-19 than outdoor protests where most participants wear masks

Nick Pope on Twitter, 6/15/2020: This is a demonstrably false (bordering on dishonest and insulting) analogy if you watch news coverage of the protests, or even just look at real-life behaviors: mask-wearers touch their faces and flout social distancing to the extent that any small benefit is outweighed by risk.

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