Ohio Department of Health Director, Amy Acton, is a familiar face on the television screens of families all around Ohio. On March 23, 2020, Acton’s Stay Safe Ohio order went into effect. The order requested that Ohioans stay at their homes or places of residence and wear masks when going out into the public. Acton recently extended the order to end on May 29, 2020.
Acton’s Stay Safe Ohio order has sparked controversy: while it is keeping Ohioans safe, some small business owners are frustrated with closures.
While a portion of business owners have voiced their concerns, other upset citizens have taken this issue too far. During the weekend of May 2, protestors surrounded Acton’s home in Bexley. The small group was armed and hurled anti-semitic slurs toward her home. These protestors claimed that Acton’s order and the request for Ohioans to wear masks in public were unconstitutional and infringed upon their First Amendment rights. Her neighbors protected her home, but that night, the protestors put Acton’s well-being in jeopardy.
The next morning, Ohio’s physicians on the front lines decided that they had enough. On May 3 at the Statehouse, there was another protest: this time, in favor of Acton.
My uncle, Dr. Greg Lam, was one among roughly 35 physicians and medical students who stood up in support of Acton. He said that the event, organized by The Physicians Action Network, was intended to prove that the order does not violate the First Amendment. The physicians wanted to demonstrate that they, too, could protest, but in a non-violent and socially responsible manner.
Lam said the physicians all wore masks and carried a six-foot cord that separated the healthcare providers, ensuring that they remained socially distanced while also creating a striking visual message for onlookers.
“Stay home, stop COVID-19. We are at work for you,” was one message written on a sign carried by a doctor at the Statehouse. Lam said that those who chose to neglect proper prevention measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing are putting healthcare workers at risk, and it is frustrating. He wants to remind Ohioans that they have the right to make their own choices, but they need to keep their communities in mind.
Although the protest was a quiet demonstration, those passing by the Statehouse in cars honked their horns in support. Lam said that only one counter-protestor was present at the Statehouse while the healthcare providers were demonstrating.
In trying times, we must stand together. The spread of this virus is something that Ohioans cannot ignore, even if it has changed our lives in unimaginable ways.
Although the demonstration was moving, the 35 healthcare providers should not have had to stand up in support for Acton, as she is doing her utmost to keep every citizen of our state safe. If we are responsible as a community, our physicians can focus on the task at hand: doing their jobs to defeat this virus rather than fighting hate.