Ohio lawmaker opposes stay-at-home orders because death 'is inevitable'

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'Life comes with some level of risk and it should be our choice to determine how we assess that risk as free citizens,' Ohio state Rep. Nino Vitale wrote to Gov. Mike DeWine.

Ohio state Rep. Nino Vitale, a Republican, attended a Friday rally at the Statehouse in Columbus to protest social distancing measures designed to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Asked why he opposes the state's stay-at-home order, Vitale said, "Is the role of government to protect us from death, which is inevitable? Or is the role of government to radically protect our freedom and our liberty? For me, I stand for your freedom and your liberty."

Video of Vitale's comments was posted on Twitter by a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal.

In addition to attending the protest, earlier in the week Vitale sent a letter to Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine, demanding the state "rescind all orders" put in place to stop the spread of the virus.

In the April 16 letter, Vitale had already stressed the inevitability of death as a reason not to enforce social distancing.

"No government can stop death, no matter how hard we try," Vitale wrote. "Life comes with some level of risk and it should be our choice to determine how we assess that risk as free citizens."

Vitale said that it is time for Ohio "to follow the CDC guidelines and open Ohio for business and get Ohio flourishing again."

When Vitale spoke at the Friday protest, he was not maintaining a six-foot distance from others, nor was he wearing a face-covering in public, both steps that are contained in guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the virus.

DeWine reacted swiftly to the coronavirus crisis, shutting down large events in Ohio before many other states did so. On March 5, DeWine shut down the state's Arnold Sports Festival, usually attended by roughly 60,000 spectators, before Ohio had a single confirmed case.

On March 15, when the state had only 36 confirmed coronavirus cases, DeWine ordered restaurants closed for dine-in service.

"If we do not act, and stop and break up these groups, our healthcare system in the state of Ohio will not hold up," DeWine said at the time. "We've got people who have strokes, who have heart attacks, who have urgent needs for that healthcare system to attend to."

While Vitale talks about individual freedom, health experts have said that ignoring distancing guidelines puts others at risk.

"A lot of us might be relatively healthy and think we might be able to withstand the rigors of an infection," Jonathan Kimmelman, director of the Biomedical Ethics Unit at McGill University in Montreal, told Vox, "but there's the concern about spreading it to vulnerable individuals, as well as the pressure this outbreak will place on our health care system."

Scientists have discovered that the new coronavirus can be transmitted by people who are not exhibiting symptoms.

On Thursday, Donald Trump encouraged protests like the one Vitale attended, in part because participants "seem to be protesters that like me." On Friday, Trump appeared to encourage rallies and revolts in states governed by Democrats, tweeting, "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" and similar statements about Michigan and Virginia.

As of Monday morning, Ohio had at least 11,602 confirmed coronavirus cases, and at least 471 people had died. The United States has recorded more than 753,000 cases, and at least 36,109 people have died.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.