Most Republicans back stay-at-home orders even as GOP leaders fight them

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A new poll found 80% of Americans support strict orders to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donald Trump and Republican officials around the country have been pushing for weeks for an end to stay-at-home orders aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic. But a new poll finds that even a large majority of self-identified Republicans back continuing the social distancing orders.

The latest KFF Health Tracking Poll, released Thursday, found that 80% of Americans believe that "strict shelter-in-place measures are worth it in order to protect people and limit the spread of coronavirus."

Among Republicans, 61% agreed with this position. Just 38% of Republicans — and 19% of all American adults — view the measures as "placing unnecessary burdens on people and the economy" and "causing more harm than good."

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Similarly, 81% of Americans said they could follow strict social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines for at least another month to help reduce the coronavirus' spread.

This comes as Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed for governors to lift their stay-at-home orders and backed protesters fighting against their states' restrictions.

Last week, he announced a rough plan for states to gradually reopen. "You're going to call your own shots," he reportedly told governors during a videoconference. "We're going to be standing alongside of you."

Hours later, he fired off several tweets demanding people "liberate" their states from the stay-at-home orders.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and lawmakers in other states have taken steps that align with Trump's call, announcing Monday that they would allow businesses to reopen in the near future. On Wednesday, Trump said Kemp was moving too quickly, but noted, "I’m going to let him make his decision."

Other Republican lawmakers have also been calling for a speedy reopening.

Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) said last Tuesday that lawmakers should "put on our big boy and big girl pants" and end safety measures and that people dying was the "lesser of two evils" if it would help the economy.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) has repeatedly pushed for an end to stay-at-home orders, despite public health experts' advice. He said last Wednesday, "The American people get it: We gotta reopen, and when we do, the coronavirus is gonna spread faster, and we gotta be ready."

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) said Monday that the economy should be reopened immediately and that doctors who urge otherwise should instead "come back and help revitalize the economy."

On Tuesday, Republican legislators in Virginia and Wisconsin filed lawsuits aimed at stopping forced social distancing rules in their states. The Wisconsin state Senate president and Assembly speaker accused Gov. Tony Evers' administration of asserting "czar-like powers" by ordering people to stay home.

Michigan's state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey tweeted Wednesday, "Michiganders have complied with [Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's] stay-at-home order. Now's the time to trust them to return to work SAFELY." In a Facebook post, he endorsed mass protests against "Michigan continuing to be an unnecessary outlier in restrictions under our Stay Home Stay Safe order."

But experts say lifting social distancing orders before the pandemic is under control could cause harm to both public health and the economy.

The nation's top epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned Monday that "unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen."

"So what you do if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re going to set yourself back," he told ABC News. "So as painful as it is to go by the careful guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening, it’s going to backfire. That’s the problem."

Fox News host Sean Hannity said on his radio show Wednesday, "It's amazing how much people want to get to work, they just — they're dying to get back to work."

More than 44,500 Americans have died so far of COVID-19. And poll after poll has shown that the vast majority of Americans support stay-at-home orders for as long as they are needed to protect public health.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.