Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Apr 20: President Trump announces he will sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States. Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina relax health restrictions on businesses and many open. Crude oil prices drop below $0 for the first time in history.*

From the Cutting Room Floor...

The tale of two (kinds of) protests.

First, what the national media covered: At state capitols in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, New Hampshire, Idaho, Texas and California, white dozens of white folks congregated with placards, Gadsden flags, and, fairly often, assault rifles. They yelled a lot. They banged on the doors of statehouses. They’re very angry. What are they angry about? Judging by their signs, some worry that their small businesses are suffering. But many—spurred on by Facebook influencers, discredited right-wing talk show hosts, and even the relatives of the Secretary of Education—just want to shout that the virus is a hoax or no worse than the flu.[1] They’re angry that governors are swayed by liberal Jedi-mindtricks to contain a killer these folks don’t believe exists. These protests look strangely familiar. They could be a Trump rally or a lynch mob in Mississippi in the 1920s.

Second, what the national media did not cover: nurses. “Give us PPE” has been a constant mantra of this pandemic. There isn’t enough protection.  Hospital administrators say they’re following CDC guidance—a policy built from our inexplicable national scarcity. Increasingly, nurses are picketing and even walking off the job in Kentucky, California, New Jersey, and New York.[2]  It might be most acute in Detroit, though, where cases have risen from a few hundred to around 20,000 in less than a month. The system is slammed. Nurses are overwhelmed.

Two weeks ago, nurses on the 11p-7a shift at DNC-Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit reached a breaking point. Six or seven nurses were supposed to care for hundreds of patients, dozens on ventilators and IV drips. Two people died in the hallways of the ER, waiting for help.[3] After repeated calls for additional staff, and with no help arriving, they staged a protest. Management told them they could walk out but no help would be arriving. So they left.[4]

This is a labor versus management dispute, for sure. But it is something else, too. DNC-Sinai-Grace is a highly rated level 2 trauma center, and one of the largest hospitals in the area—a facility, in other words, that should be running smoothly.[5] There has been government money available for well over a month, now. If Detroit looks the same as New York, it means, ultimately, that the country waited too long to stop the virus.[6]

The data-visualization company Visual Capitalist combined data from the Occupational Information Network and the Bureau of Labor statistics to visualize occupational risks in the time of coronavirus. RNs and LPNs, according to their chart, have a very high COVID-19 Occupational Risk Score and linger in the bottom third of the income distribution.[7] No wonder some are some are striking. No amount of clapping and banging of pots and pans in New York City at 7pm is going to help.[8]

It’s worrying that, at this point in the pandemic, it still needs to be said: this is not like the flu.[9]  During a bad flu season, we do not have bodies stacked up in spare rooms.



[1] Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm, “Pro-Gun Activists Using Facebook Groups to Push Anti-Quarantine Protests,” The Washington Post, April 19, 2020,; Salvador Hernandez, “This Is How A Group Linked To Betsy DeVos Is Organizing Protests To End Social Distancing, Now With Trump’s Support,” BuzzFeed News, April 17, 2020,; Adam Jeffery, “Scenes of Protests across the Country Demanding States Reopen the Economy amid Coronavirus Pandemic,” CNBC, April 18, 2020,

[2] Janelle Griffith, “Nurses Protest Working Coronavirus Conditions, Say Hospitals Aren’t Protecting Them,” NBC News, April 20, 2020,

[3] Paul P. Murphy and Theresa Waldrop, “Detroit Hospital Workers Say People Are Dying in the ER Hallways before Help Can Arrive,” CNN, April 9, 2020,

[4] Kristen Jordan Shamus, Darcie Moran, and Robin Erb, “Nurses Protest Conditions at Detroit’s Sinai-Grace, Said They Were Told to Leave,” Detroit Free Press, April 7, 2020,

[5] “How Does DMC-Sinai-Grace Hospital Rank Among America’s Best Hospitals?,” US News & World Report, April 20, 2020,

[6] ; Fatima Bangura, “Disturbing Images Show Bodies Piled up at Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit,” WXYZ ABC 7, April 15, 2020,; Ryan Young, Jake Carpenter and Paul P. Murphy, “Photos Show Bodies Piled up and Stored in Vacant Rooms at Detroit Hospital,” CNN, April 14, 2020,

[7] Marcus Lu, “The Front Line: Visualizing the Occupations with the Highest COVID-19 Risk,” Visual Capitalist, April 15, 2020,

[8] Andy Newman, “What N.Y.C. Sounds Like Every Night at 7,” The New York Times, April 10, 2020,

[9] Ari Schulman, Brendan Foht, and Samuel Matlack, “Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like…,” The New Atlantis, April 13, 2020,

Read more
Occupations with the Highest COVID-19 Risk

Visual Capitalist, “COVID-19 Occupational Risk Score,” April 15, 2020.

Video “This Is What Nurses Are Saying About The Anti-Lockdown Protests,” April 20, 2020.
Magazine, Kristen Jordan Shamus and Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, and Robin Erb, Bridge. “Nurses Protest Conditions at Detroit’s Sinai-Grace, Said They Were Told to Leave.” Detroit Free Press, April 6, 2020.
StevenCrowder. Trump’s Right, the Media’s Wrong on COVID | Louder with Crowder, 2020. “This Is What Nurses Are Saying About The Anti-Lockdown Protests,” April 20, 2020.

*If the pdf thumbnails are not appearing, please reload the page.

CNN, Paul P. Murphy and Theresa Waldrop. “Detroit Hospital Workers Say People Are Dying in the ER Hallways before Help Can Arrive.” CNN, April 9, 2020.
Daly, Diana. “What Are the ‘reopen’ Protesters Really Saying?” The Conversation, April 20, 2020.
Griffith, Janelle. “Nurses Protest Working Coronavirus Conditions, Say Hospitals Aren’t Protecting Them.” NBC News, April 20, 2020.
Grinspoon, Peter. “A Tale of Two Epidemics: When COVID-19 and Opioid Addiction Collide.” Harvard Health Blog, April 20, 2020.
Krebs. “Who’s Behind the ‘Reopen’ Domain Surge? — Krebs on Security,” April 20, 2020.
Lu, Marcus. “These Are the Occupations with the Highest COVID-19 Risk.” World Economic Forum, April 20, 2020.
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Additional Links

* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.