One of the people behind the large anti-lockdown protest movement in North Carolina says she’s tested positive for COVID-19 — and thinks her subsequent quarantine order violated her civil rights.
Audrey Whitlock, an administrator of the ReOpen NC Facebook page, posted about her condition in the group, which has nearly 70,000 members, on Sunday morning, a local CBS affiliate first reported. She described herself as an “asymptomatic COVID19 positive patient” and stated that her two-week quarantine ends Tuesday.
Whitlock, along with two other mothers, formed the private ReOpen NC Facebook group on April 7. Since then, they’ve helped lead the charge for two protests, both in Raleigh, on April 14 and April 21. Around 100 people showed up to the first protest, and well over 300 showed up to the second. Many protesters were frustrated Americans who are eager to get back to work. Others carried signs calling coronavirus a “scam-demic” or promoting fringe conspiracy theories, such as 5G wireless causing COVID-19.
Whitlock didn’t respond to VICE News’ request or comment about whether she attended those events. ReOpenNC co-founder Ashley Smith told WXII12 that Whitlock tested positive three weeks ago and has not attended any protests (if she had broken quarantine to attend, that would be considered a criminal offense, according to the CDC).
Still, Whitlock’s condition is troubling given her central role in an anti-lockdown protest movement that demands an end to scientifically-informed measures designed to contain the spread of the virus that’s killed nearly 55,000 people in the U.S. so far. On Saturday, North Carolina reported 571 new COVID-19 cases, the largest day-to-day increase that the state has seen so far. Since March 27, North Carolinians have been under a stay-at-home order. That order was set to expire on April 29, but last week Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper extended it until May 8.
In the Facebook post, Whitlock claimed that members of her family developed flu-like symptoms in late February but were never tested for coronavirus. She said she got a test earlier this month for antibodies to see if she’d already had the virus. The test showed her as negative for antibodies — and positive for current infection of COVID-19.
Whitlock is using her alleged plight to rail against quarantine measures, which she says violated her constitutional rights by prohibiting her from attending protests and denied her “freedom of religion.”
“The reality is that modern society has not been able to eradicate contagious viruses. A typical public health quarantine would occur in a medical facility,” Whitlock wrote on the private Facebook page, CBS reported. “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.”
Another ReOpen NC event is scheduled to take place Tuesday. At least 45 states have already held or will soon hold their own anti-lockdown protests.
Cover: Protesters from a grassroots organization called REOPEN NC gather to pressure North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to reopen the State in Raleigh, NC, United States on April 21, 2020. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)