Hundreds gather in North Carolina and Missouri to protest stay-at-home orders

Hundreds of protesters gathered at state capitols in North Carolina and Missouri to protest stay-at-home orders Tuesday, the latest in a wave of demonstrations against statewide restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

The small protests featured demonstrators — many of whom wearing gear promoting President Donald Trump and waving American and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags — who mostly opted against wearing masks and ignored social distancing guidelines health experts say are necessary to mitigate the transmission of the highly contagious virus.

The protesters decried the stay-at-home orders, which have curtailed businesses and personal freedoms, and pointed to the 22 million Americans who have filed for unemployment over the past month. Health experts and many governors across the country have cautioned against easing restrictions too soon given how easily the virus spreads as well as the limitations on both testing and treatment.

Though the protests have generated considerable press attention, polling shows they account for a small minority of Americans’ views on the pandemic. A Gallup poll conducted this month found that just 20 percent of Americans would like to see an immediate return to normal, while 71 percent prefer to wait and see how the outbreak develops. In North Carolina, where one of Tuesday’s protests took place, a Citvas Institute poll found that 84 percent of respondents approve of Gov. Roy Cooper’s handling of the outbreak.

Trump has expressed support for the protesters, tweeting about the need to “LIBERATE” three of the states with strict stay-at-home orders. But even the White House’s own guidelines for reopening the country stress the need for a cautious and calculated return to normalcy.

“These are people expressing their views,” he told reporters last week. “I see where they are, and I see the way they’re working. They seem to be very responsible people to me.”

In a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence on Monday, Cooper and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked Pence if the administration could make clear the importance of staying home and following the orders in place, as ABC News first reported and Whitmer confirmed during her Monday news conference. Pence said the administration would reiterate that point.

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