Protesters gathered in a mall parking lot in Carlsbad on Saturday to demand that state and local officials reopen all businesses and schools shuttered by COVID-19 lockdown orders.
From the back of a flatbed truck, speakers took turns addressing the crowd of about 200 people, many wearing American flag attire and MAGA hats.
The chambers of commerce for Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Marcos and North San Diego sponsored the event, saying the rally was part of building a coalition to end the closure orders. They called on residents to “choose freedom over fear.”
“How can buying a 52-inch flat screen TV at Walmart or buying a screwdriver at Home Depot be more essential than going to church or getting a haircut?” said Juan Velasco, whose Slight Edge Hair Salon in Oceanside has been shuttered for months. “How can one person label what is essential and nonessential with the stroke of a pen? It is just not right.”
Bret Schanzenbach, president and CEO of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that reopening schools for in-person classes will likely be complicated. However, he said, it needs to happen so that working parents don’t lose their jobs.
“Not everyone can work remote,” he said to enthusiastic applause and cheers. “It does work for some, and hopefully some of you it works. But my wife’s a nurse. She doesn’t get the opportunity to just Zoom in working at Sharp Mary Birch.”
San Diego health officials reopened bars and restaurants this summer only to quickly reverse course after cases of coronavirus quickly spiked, especially among younger adults. The region has now recorded more than 620 deaths and more than 2,800 hospitalizations.
On Friday, county health officials said the San Diego region could soon be removed from the state’s watch list, a key milestone for reopening businesses and schools. However, for in-person classes to resume, the region would first need to maintain an average rate of fewer than 100 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents for the next two weeks.
It’s unclear how San Diego’s recent reduction in cases will impact small businesses still under lockdown orders.
Sharon McKeeman, 41, of Carlsbad, attended the rally on Saturday. She had homeschooled her four children pre-virus. But after she injured her leg, she enrolled them in public school. Now, she said she’s now feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of becoming a full-time teacher to them again.
“Day cares are open,” she said. “Businesses are open. Entertainment venues are open. But my children can’t go to school even one day a week.
“I am a lot more prepared for this because I’ve been doing it for a decade than (compared to) other parents who have been forced into this,” McKeeman added. “It is not right for every family.”
Shannon Primer said the school closures are impacting her 19-year-old son who’s enrolled in a school program for those with disabilities.
“He’s regressing,” said the Oceanside mom. “Right now, every day that he loses is a day that may ruin the rest of his life. He is not getting the skills he needs.”
While only about half of those at the event wore face masks, speakers somewhat reluctantly urged people to embrace the face coverings.
“I’m not a scientist,” said Schanzenbach with the Carlsbad Chamber “I don’t pretend to be one on social media. But if there’s a chance that the mask can help, I’m willing to do the inconvenience of when I leave my house I’ll throw it on. Not because Big Brother said I should, no. Because I want to help my neighbor across the street. I want to help the guy at church, his livelihood.”
County Supervisor Jim Desmond told the crowd he isn’t a “fan” of masks.
“However,” he added, “if that’s what it takes to get our businesses open, if that’s what it takes to get our schools open, it’s an inconvenience, sacrifice, I think, we’re willing to make.
“But if they’re not going to open up the businesses, then it’s a different story.”