Leader of anti-lockdown protest to “reopen” North Carolina reveals she tested positive for COVID-19
Audrey Whitlock complained on Facebook that the government “denied my 1st amendment right of freedom of religion”
A leader of an anti-lockdown protest group in North Carolina says that she has tested positive for COVID-19 — and she’s angry that she was forced to quarantine for two weeks to avoid spreading the virus to other people.
Local news station CBS 17 reports that Audrey Whitlock, a leader of the ReOpen NC protest movement, posted on Facebook this week that she has been under quarantine for the past two weeks after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
She says that she has been asymptomatic throughout the quarantine, and she bitterly complained about having to stay inside to avoid infecting other people.
“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,” she wrote. “It has been insinuated by others that if I go out, I could be arrested for denying a quarantine order.”
North Carolina has more than 9,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
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.