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Anti-Worker Groups Are Cashing In On COVID Denial

Until recently, President Trump was cheerleading the idea that our nation’s COVID-19 pandemic was no big deal, and that it would be over soon. Even though he secretly knew the virus was dangerous and highly contagious, he tried to “play down” the severity of the virus, mocked those who wore masks, and guffawed at the idea of ever wearing one himself. That changed in July as either reality or his desperate advisors finally got through to him, and he donned a mask for his visit to the Walter Reed military hospital.

He has not been alone in his COVID denialism, as a ten-minute viewing of FOX News will attest. But in the denial crowd, there is a particularly noxious subset that risks public health by claiming the pandemic is a mere conspiracy and hopes to make money while doing it. Trump seems to have reluctantly moved on, now focused on sowing division in the streets, but other COVID deniers are staying the course to cash in.

A far-right conspiracy club called The John Birch Society, based in Appleton, WI, is warning their readers that the pandemic is a cover for ushering in “a new world order.” They warn that the scheme, orchestrated by a globalist group of Deep State elites, will bring about dominance by technocratic elites, with “royalty and mass-murdering communist tyrants” already on the bandwagon. Writers at the Society insist masks don’t stop the virus anyway, and shutdowns aren’t necessary. They ask for donations and membership dues to help their fight against the “COVID overreach” that supposedly threatens all of our freedoms.

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Cut from the same cloth as The John Birch Society, over on the West Coast, an extremist group calling itself the “Freedom” Foundation is running a fundraiser based on similar denials of the pandemic. The donations fuel frivolous lawsuits against the safety measures we can all take to slow down the virus’s transmissions, such as wearing masks. Or as one “Freedom” Foundation attorney described the safety measure, “junk science.” Meanwhile, a complaint has been filed against the group for not following state laws about employee or visitor safety. While their staff accuses the state health department of “deceiving the public,” the national director urges kids back into school before it’s safe because apparently, COVID is no worse than the flu. Nevermind the 187,000 (and growing) dead Americans.

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The bounty of cash raked in from the COVID denial populace may have inspired one of the right-wing “Freedom” Foundation’s clients. Slidewaters, a water park in a county that just saw 179 new COVID infections in the last two weeks, has been fighting against state-mandated safety orders for months, insisting they know best how to keep people safe. Disregarding the possibility of their park becoming a potential virus super-spreader with thousands of customers, they remained open until they were fined by the state, leading the owners to decry “Big Government and overreaching politicians preaching the need for a Utopian society…” A notice of the fine is posted on their GoFundMe page.

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As our society grapples with a once in a century health crisis, it’s so disappointing to see groups like these leading in the wrong and dangerous direction. Getting through this pandemic and reopening our economy requires us to work together to stay safe and follow health experts’ advice to keep the curve down, not jockey for personal gain like the John Birch Society, extremist “Freedom” Foundation, and Slidewaters.

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