The leader of a North Carolina protest group has been working to reopen the state amid the coronavirus pandemic, but she was reportedly unable to attend two rallies after she tested positive for the illness.
Audrey Whitlock, the administrator of the Reopen NC Facebook group, said she has been in a two-week quarantine and was subsequently forced to miss the planned protests in Raleigh, according to Charlotte radio station WFAE.
“I remained in isolation/self quarantine at my home per the direction of my county health department,” she told the NPR affiliate in a statement. “I have not attended any events for Reopen NC.”
Despite her bout with the illness, Whitlock, whose quarantine ended on Sunday, confirmed that she still has plans to attend an upcoming rally — the group’s third one — on Tuesday, WFAE reported.
“It is clear that we are flattening the curve,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a Thursday news conference, defending the state’s lockdown, according to the Raleigh News and Observer. “But our state is not ready to lift restrictions yet. We need more time to slow the spread of the virus before we can ease the social restrictions.”
“We understand that we can’t stay at home forever, and that this is not something that is sustainable long-term, but what we have to do is to ease back into it to make sure that this virus does not spike, which it very easily could do, overwhelming our hospitals,” Gov. Cooper said at an April 21 news conference. “You only have to look on TV at what’s happening in New York and Italy to see what could happen here.”
Whitlock’s statement to the station comes on the heels of her post in the private Facebook group, where she disclosed her illness to its 70,000 members and spoke out against Gov. Cooper’s stay-at-home orders, according to The News & Observer.
“As an asymptomatic COVID19 positive patient (quarantine ends 4/26), another concern I have is the treatment of COVID patients as it relates to other communicable diseases,” she wrote on Sunday, according to the outlet.
“I have been told not to participate in public or private accommodations as requested by the government, and therefore denied my 1st amendment right of freedom of religion,” she continued. “If I were an essential employee, I would be denied access to my job by my employer and the government, though compensated, those with other communicable diseases are afforded the right to work.”
“It has been insinuated by others that if I go out, I could be arrested for denying a quarantine order,” she went on. “However, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination by employers, places of public accommodation, and state and local government entities. . Where do we draw the line?”
However, it is a criminal offense to break a state or federal quarantine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The protest leader also disclosed in a separate post that she and two other people living in her home became sick in February after she and her husband had traveled separately to the West Coast earlier this year, according to The News & Observer.
At the time, doctors told one of her kids that it was a mild case of the flu and did not perform a COVID-19 test, despite all three family members experiencing “severe coughs” and “trouble breathing at night,” the outlet reported.
Recently, Whitford wrote in a Facebook post that she was curious to know whether she had the virus in February so she decided to get antibody testing at a nearby lab.
“The test came back positive for COVID and negative for the antibodies, so I had a CDC test performed,” she wrote, according to The News & Observer, claiming that Mecklenburg County’s health department never followed up about her results or who she might have exposed.
Mecklenburg County’s Health Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
“This testing and tracing that Cooper is talking about, I have first hand experience that it did not exist in my case,” she wrote, the outlet reported. “After an abundance of caution, I notified my primary care physician who advised me on what to do, and I have been in my house ever since!”
North Carolina’s stay-at-home order is currently in effect until May 8, according to WFAE.
During last week’s Reopen NC rally, over 100 protesters showed up to demand that Gov. Cooper open the state — some of whom abided by the CDC’s social-distancing recommendations and stayed six feet apart, while others seemed to disregard those suggestions and didn’t wear masks, the radio station reported.
The group has also created a petition online, demanding “legislative action from NCGA Republicans and Lt. Gov Dan Forest” to re-open the state by May 1.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been over 1 million cases and 52,188 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the U.S., according to the New York Times. In North Carolina, at least 9,568 cases and 353 deaths have been reported, according to the Times.
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