“We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date,” she said in words that could apply to the entire country. “The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action because as the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors, the virus will spread, more people will get sick, and there will be more fatalities.”
Dr. Atlas has frequently belittled lockdowns and pandemic restrictions, saying they have deleterious knock-on effects and are unnecessary, and that only the “vulnerable” need protection. Of the Michigan restrictions, he wrote on Twitter: “The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp.” So, while the governor was desperately trying to save lives by slowing the virus transmission, Dr. Atlas was urging people to disobey and revolt. This is incendiary talk, especially since the governor was the target of a kidnapping plot foiled by the FBI before the election. Dr. Atlas later insisted he would never encourage violence and was talking about voting and peaceful protest.
But the damage was done. His message was that people should ignore the governor and resist the pandemic restrictions, as Mr. Trump did with his “LIBERATE” tweets in April. If Dr. Atlas’s advice is followed, more people will get sick and die. The nation is engulfed in coronavirus infections; the spread is extremely alarming, with more than 100,000 new cases every day since Nov. 4. The tidal wave of disease is stressing hospital systems to their limit and all but ensures that deaths will be increasing in the weeks to come.
It is bad enough that Mr. Trump walked away from a strong federal response to the pandemic and left it to beleaguered states. Now that the states are on the front lines of the battle, telling people to disobey the governor and “rise up” is appallingly ignorant and foolish. “It actually took my breath away, to tell you the truth,” Ms. Whitmer said on Monday. Yes, it is breathtakingly wrongheaded.