Delaware group sets May 1 rally to oppose virus quarantine restrictions

DOVER — A grassroots campaign opposing what organizers consider excessive quarantine restrictions imposed by Gov. John Carney to stem the COVID-19 pandemic plans to showcase its case at Legislative Hall.

A public “Reopen Delaware Rally” is scheduled for Friday, May 1, from noon to 3 p.m. It is sponsored by Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine, an organization that urges fellow patriots to organize and work toward a reasonable solution to the COVID-19 global crisis.

“The hope from the beginning is that we would safely reopen our state — now,” said Middletown resident Lisa Marie McCulley, the main facilitator of the rally. “Again, it can get very complicated, and I know that the president (Donald Trump) has presented a guideline of suggestions and phases. We would like to see those things implemented as soon as possible.”

Modifications to Gov. Carney’s coronavirus State of Emergency, first declared March 12, have brought closure of non-essential businesses, prolonged school closure, stay-at-home directives and social distancing requirements.

The governor’s modifications on April 1 imposed further restrictions on social gatherings with a limit of fewer than 10 persons, while also limiting the number of patrons that may frequent businesses at one time to a percentage of fire occupancy requirements.

“We believe that the waiting is over. We really truly believe that we have waited long enough,” said Ms. McCulley. “The damage that has been done to our state, not just to our economy but to the people of our state. There are far more dangers to that than warrant the extreme quarantine that the governor has placed on us.

“We want people to tell their stories, so the governor hears them. We just really feel that the restrictions placed on our state were excessive and we want them to at least start lifting those restrictions and get us back to work. That is our primary goal.”

Gov. Carney on Friday addressed the planned rally during the state’s COVID-19 video conference update.

“I would start by saying protests aren’t helpful at this point in time when we are trying to make very difficult decisions in uncharted waters,” said Gov. Carney. “I understand the sense of urgency behind that. I hear the anguish and the voices of people who want to go back to work, the business owners who are looking at losing their businesses that they spent generations … many of them are family businesses. It hurts my heart. And it also hurts my heart with each one of those Delawareans who have passed away as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In addition to Ms. McCulley, listed “hosts” of the public rally include Adiris M. Cordero-Torres, Candace Kuehl Anzaldo, Robert Arlett and Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine.

“We are to ‘flatten the curve’ but not crush the economy and our freedoms,” said Mr. Arlett. “We’ve been helping as a society to help flatten the curve, but at the same time this intent was not intended to crush our freedoms and our economy. And when I say our economy, I am referring to individual family economies, personal individual economies — households. That’s what this is, a personal story by many that is not being told. It continues, and I think therein lies the frustration of the people.”

“Today (Friday, April 17) I believe is day 25 of 53 for the Delaware shutdown. We’re basically halfway there,” said Mr. Arlett. “So we are now at a point of frustration and starting to ask questions and hold our elected officials accountable for their actions.”

Ms. McCulley said that while the schedule for the May 1 rally is not set in stone, the hope is it will mirror those held in other states, including one this past week at the state capital in Michigan. Social distancing will be maintained in accordance with Gov. Carney’s State of Emergency COVID-19 mandates.

“Absolutely, yes. This group, we’re not here to break laws. We’re not here to disrespect authority. That is not our purpose,” said Ms. McCulley. “It will be recommended for everyone to stay in their cars. If you look at the rallies that you are seeing in other states, like the Michigan rally, that is what we are hoping that our rally will look like.”

Mr. Arlett said, “By and large many people were in cars. They had signs sharing their patriotism as well as frustration. I could envision something very similar here, at the same time staying six feet apart. I don’t think anybody is envisioning hundreds of people being shoulder to shoulder here at all. People stay in their cars, which is lawful. If they choose to get out, stay six feet away.
“If there is a requirement from the governor to have a mask on, I would envision people abiding by those rules. Again, this is all about peaceful demonstration of our desire to get back to work responsibly.”

Facebook response

Through April 17, Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine group membership topped 3,100.

The Reopen Delaware Rally is generating support. As of late Friday evening, 66 people indicated they planned to attend, with 185 labeled as “interested,” according to the organization’s Facebook site.

“Our inspiration was Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine. Someone turned me onto their page,” said Ms. McCulley. “I read it. I watched videos of the administrators and saw what they were aiming to do and then saw that they organized a rally. Their portion of the rally, their group that did show up to the rally, remained in their cars and practiced social distancing. They wanted a civil rally to make a statement to their governor. That’s the same thing that we want to do.”

Mr. Arlett, who owns a real estate business and is a former Sussex County councilman and 2018 U.S. Senate candidate, accepted the invitation to serve as a “host” for the rally.

“I am not a creator or an admin of that group,” Mr. Arlett said. “But I have been asked if I would be supportive of the effort and use my resources and social media access to use my name to promote. I said, ‘I am very supportive of Delaware reopening — responsibly.’”

Ms. McCulley, whose family owns a small business, emphasized the rally is non-partisan. “I have stressed that many, many times,” she said. “We’re going to have people arguing. People are upset. They want to blame everybody. That’s not what we are about. We are just ready to return back to normal lives and get our businesses open.”

Gov. Carney, during Friday’s video conference, said it is too soon to relax restrictions.

“As I think I said earlier in the week … the choices ahead of us are going to be harder than the choices behind us, because you don’t want to open a day too soon and be at risk of a rebound, and have to close things that you’ve opened again. That really is a bad thing,” said Gov. Carney.

“You don’t want to do something that is going to put people at risk. And you need to accomplish both. You need to accomplish a healthy community and a healthy business sector. That’s kind of what I would say and what I do say to constituents and workers and businesses alike. We need to protect you and we need to give you an opportunity to come back online.”

The governor offered an analogy of a light switch and a dimmer switch. “The three-step process that has been recommended by the federal government looks like a dimmer switch. But one of the things that everybody needs to be clear on …. is that it is going to be a new normal. It is going to be different. You look through all the recommendations that include social distancing, limitation on large gatherings, appropriate hygiene,” said Gov. Carney.

“As long as that virus is out there without a vaccine or effective treatment, we’re going to have to live our lives a little bit differently. The idea is to live it safely with more people going back to work … with the lights turned on more in our economy than before and gradually getting up to as much a full force economy as we can.”

During the video conference, Gov. Carney reiterated the state’s ongoing theme, “We’re all in this together.”

Mr. Arlett said he doesn’t see it that way.

“When these certain elected officials make statements like, ‘We’re in this together.’ Bull—-. No we’re not. Because as they continue to do what they do, receive income and are able to still thrive as a family unit, thousands upon others are not,” said Mr. Arlett. “They are not looking through the lens of ‘We the People.’ They are looking through the lens of the Ivory Tower.”

Mr. Arlett noted that on board in support are multiple organizations and people of interest from throughout Delaware. “This is not a partisan event,” he said. “This is truly an effort focused and generated by the grassroots people, whereas we want to get back to work and serving our local communities by being responsible. I think we can do both. It should not be just one or the other. We can do both.”

“I think that is all we’re asking is: let’s get back to work, by being responsible,” said Mr. Arlett. “We are Americans. We are Delawareans and we can do both.”

Ms. McCulley said she is willing to talk with the governor.

“I have met him and talked to him briefly, but I don’t know him personally,” said Ms. McCulley. “My husband has known him for over 30 years. We are certainly open to talking to the governor.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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