'ReOpen NC' Founder Has COVID-19, Says It Is Her First Amendment Right To Infect Others
Audrey S. Whitlock, one of the founders of "ReOpen NC" and an admin of the ReOpen NC Facebook page, a group agitating to end social distancing measures in North Carolina, recently revealed that she tested positive for COVID-19 and was an asymptomatic carrier for who knows how long.
While most people in Whitlock's position might feel horrible, might be worried about who else they may have infected, might walk back some of the bullshit they've been spreading ... she is doing no such thing. In fact, without a hint of regret, Whitlock took to Facebook to claim that requiring her and others with COVID-19 to quarantine themselves is a violation of both their First Amendment rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Which, you know, it's not.
Yes, she's literally mad that she's not allowed to go rally for the right for everyone to spread highly communicable diseases just because she's got a highly communicable disease.
"As an asymptomatic COVID19 positive patient (quarantine ends 4/26)," Whitlock posted on Sunday, "another concern I have is the treatment of COVID patients as it relates to other communicable diseases. I have been forced to quarantine in my home for 2 weeks." [...]
"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," Whitlock wrote. "If I were an essential employee, I would be denied access to my job by my employer and the government, though compensated, those with other communicable diseases are afforded the right to work. It has been insinuated by others that if I go out, I could be arrested for denying a quarantine order. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination by employers, places of public accommodation, and state and local government entities. . Where do we draw the line?"
The line, actually, is very clear. She could Google for the line. Freedom of Religion does not mean the right to attend, in person, a specific church, while one is being quarantined due to having a contagious illness. Whitlock is free to practice her religion at home, by herself, as many are doing right now and as many did even prior to the pandemic.
While the ADA does protect those with communicable diseases, it doesn't cover situations wherein the person with the communicable disease poses a direct threat to other people. In cases like this, people can be quarantined and they can be denied access to certain public accommodations for as long as they are infectious.
Due to concern about the spread of highly contagious diseases such as pandemic influenza and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), questions have been raised about the application of the ADA in such situations. Generally, individuals with serious contagious diseases would most likely be considered individuals with disabilities. However, this does not mean that an individual with a serious contagious disease would have to be hired or given access to a place of public accommodation if such an action would place other individuals at a significant risk. Such determinations are highly fact specific and the differences between the contagious diseases may give rise to differing conclusions since each contagious disease has specific patterns of transmission that affect the magnitude and duration of a potential threat to others.
Audrey Whitlock may really want to go to her rallies, she might really want to go to church, but it is perfectly legal to prevent her from doing those things that if she poses a threat to others. Despite what she may have been led to believe, she is not actually the only person in the whole entire world. While she may be asymptomatic, while COVID-19 may not have killed her or put her on a ventilator, other people — who also exist — might not be so lucky. Ms. Whitlock might not care if those people die or get sick, but they might, and therein lies the rub.
The ReOpen NC group has continued holding protests every Tuesday throughout this, and Whitlock has refused to tell the news media whether or not she has attended these rallies. However, screenshots from the ReOpen NC Facebook group posted in the public group Banned From ReOpen NC suggest that she may have been to and posted video from at least one of them.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse