With protests against government issued stay-at-home orders erupting across the country, the question is raised: does “land of the free” still stand during a worldwide pandemic?

Our nation, and our world, is currently living in a precarious state that we have never seen in our lifetimes. Businesses are shut down, people are required by law to stay home and practice social distancing and government restrictions are preventing people from going about their everyday lives as usual. 

All of this is being done in the hopes of ending the pandemic altogether, and preventing this situation from being carried on into the summer and beyond. Despite these restrictions being placed on Americans in order to aid in their wellbeing, many Americans are rising up against “government sanctions” and protesting that the government reopen businesses. 

As these individuals stand in the streets protesting, holding up signs that read statements like “Land of the Free” and “Jesus is my vaccine,” the US death toll from COVID-19 continues to grow, with the CDC reporting more than 44,000 confirmed deaths as of Wednesday night. So, what do these protests seek to accomplish? Overwhelmingly, the answer was simple: freedom.

A sign which read “freedom Trumps the coronavirus,” with an obvious nod to President Donald Trump, was wielded at a rally in Washington state last week. Although the individuals protesting the government sanctions say they want their freedom to work and live as they please, it seems they are missing the glaringly obvious in all of this: the longer we resist staying at home, the longer the virus will persist. 

Protesters say they should have the freedom to choose whether or not they want to partake in social distancing, and that they can handle the consequences of their actions. Indianapolis protester Andy Lyons told a CNN affiliate, “If I get sick, then I am going to bear the consequences of my getting sick. If anybody else gets sick, they bear the consequences of their free choice without government coercion to do so. That’s what this is about.” 

The comments from protesters go directly against the message the CDC and healthcare professionals are desperately trying to get across. The Michigan Nurses Association said it best: “We are begging people, please stay home.”

Ideally, everyone wants businesses to reopen, for schools to be in session and for everyday life to go back to normal. But the current pandemic, which is affecting most of the world, is an unprecedented situation which health officials are taking extremely seriously. If left to their own discretion, most people would probably treat the situation as minor and go about their normal lives. Until the government tells us something is serious, it often doesn’t feel serious. 

Although some say they are protesting against government power and not stay-at-home orders, the two go hand-in-hand. Most of the protesters at the rallies were wearing Trump’s campaign logo on their shirts and hats, but President Trump himself is considering suspending immigration to the U.S. for 60 days in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

If people are not swayed to follow the protocols set by the government, then they should re-read the growing death rate from coronavirus in the U.S. The message could not be more: Stay home.