Libertarian billionaire Charles Koch is actively fighting during the coronavirus crisis engulfing the United States and the world — but rather than fighting against the virus’ spread, his group is pushing for businesses to stay open and an end to shelter-in-place orders.
Americans for Prosperity, which Koch founded and funds, released a statement last week urging businesses to remain open, The Intercept reported, as states across the U.S. began shutting down nonessential businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
“Rather than blanket shutdowns, the government should allow businesses to continue to adapt and innovate to produce the goods and services Americans need, while continuing to do everything they can to protect the public health,” Emily Seidel, chief executive of AFP, wrote in a press release.
AFP is speaking out at the state level as well, according to the report: “Some of the group’s state chapters have taken a similar tone. AFP Pennsylvania’s state director, as well as a regional director with the group, have taken to Twitter to lambast shelter-in-place policies.”
And when Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a stay-at-home order that closed down Michigan’s fitness centers, nail salons, amusement parks, casinos, and other nonessential businesses, AFP’s Michigan chapter slammed the move.
“All businesses are essential — to the people who own them, the people who work in them, and the communities they serve,” Annie Patnaude, the Michigan state director for AFP, said in response to the order.
But public health officials have maintained that such measures are necessary if the country hopes to avoid overwhelming its hospital systems with coronavirus patients.
“Experts around the country have called for shelter-in-place policies for nonessential businesses, arguing that social isolation can drastically curb the spread of the coronavirus,” The Intercept noted. “Slowing the pandemic, they say, can save lives by lowering the demand for medical supplies and limited hospital beds.”
But a growing number of conservatives are rejecting this counsel over the negative impact on the economy. In Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves recently issued an order superseding local social distancing measures, including bans on public gatherings. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has also shied away from shutting down businesses.
The Intercept noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, indicated he has “‘emphasized very emphatically’ that bars, restaurants, and other nonessential businesses close and that those who may work from home do so.”
In fact, even AFP appears to see value in taking social distancing measures seriously — at least for its own people.
“AFP and its affiliates, including LIBRE Initiative and Concerned Veterans for America, are now working from home. ‘Out of an abundance of caution and to ensure the health and safety of our activists, staff, and voters, our staff are working from home and are utilizing digital organizing as one way to continue their grassroots engagement,’ a spokesperson from AFP told CNBC,” The Intercept wrote.