An ICU nurse says stay-at-home protesters thought she was an actor dressing up in costume when she joined a silent counter-protest last month.
Lauren Leander, 27, was among a handful of medical professionals who turned out to a counter-protest at the ‘Patriot’s Day Rally’ in Phoenix on April 20, when nearly a thousand people marched on the state Capitol Building.
Protesters ‘were not peaceful’ and stood within a foot of Ms Leander, coughing at her and accusing the small group of being actors ‘dressed up in costume’, she told The View yesterday.
Zahid Seed, Ms Leander’s colleague and friend, warned the demonstrators – some of whom carried assault rifles – that Ms Leander’s face would be the last they see ‘when they are admitted to the ICU’.
He said: ‘When they inevitably contract Covid-19 and transmit it to their loved ones, Lauren will be one of the first faces they will see when they are admitted to the ICU.
‘She may also be one of the last faces that they ever see.’
Lauren Leander (pictured right), 27, was among a handful of medical professionals who turned out to a counter-protest at the ‘Patriot’s Day Rally’ in Phoenix on April 20. She described protesters walking a foot in front of her (pictured)
On the day of the protest group ignored the ‘heated’ demonstrators and stood silently in their scrubs and face masks, Ms Leander said.
She added: ‘There were people coughing the “fake virus” on us. One of the big themes [was] they thought we were paid actors, that we were planted there by a hospital or by the government and we were told not to speak and just stand there in costume.’
Ms Leander, who works at the Banner University Medical Center’s Covid-19 unit, revealed she spent her day off at the event.
She wanted to raise awareness for her colleagues who ‘haven’t seen their families in months’ as they continue to self-isolate.
Ms Leander added: ‘A lot of healthcare workers’ lives are on hold.’
At one point a protester tried to bait the group away by pretending someone was unwell and needed help. There were also ‘large, strong men fully masked carrying assault rifles’, she said.
The stay-at-home protesters, who want lockdown measures to be lifted, have been supported by a number of politicians, including former Arizona state Senator Dr. Kelli Ward.
In a tweet posted the day after the rally, Dr. Ward questioned the motivations of the nurses who turned out to counter-protest, describing them as ‘actors playing parts’.
Protesters ‘were not peaceful’ and stood within a foot of Ms Leander, coughing at her and accusing the small group (pictured) of being actors ‘dressed up in costume’ as they silently wore their scrubs and face masks
Ms Leander revealed she spent her day off from the Phoenix’s Banner University Medical Center Covid-19 unit at the protest (pictured)
The sentiment frustrated Leander, who stated: ‘I wish she could be in my shoes for a day, I’d have her put on a pair of scrubs and walk with me’.
However, Leander has been hailed a hero by many in her profession for bravely standing up to represent healthcare workers on the frontline of the pandemic.
Among them was a message from Ms Leander’s colleague Mr Zahid.
‘Today she stood up for healthcare workers as protesters descended upon the State Capitol. She stood in silence as people called her a “fake nurse” & “paid actor” amongst other horrendous things,’ he said.
‘Ironically, she has spent many days in the Covid ICU caring for our sickest patients. She stood for those who are on life support and have no voice of their own. She stood for the 42,604 Americans who have died so far.
Leander has been hailed a hero by many in her profession for bravely standing up to represent healthcare workers on the frontline of the pandemic. Pictured, with a puppy
Despite the intensity of the protest, Leander (pictured) previously told told KNXV she feels no ill-will to those who stood against her
Despite the intensity of the protest, Leander previously told told KNXV she feels no ill-will to those who stood against her.
‘I just hope people see that nurses are not the enemy and we’ll take care of them one way or the other,’ she stated.
‘I don’t care if you believe in this virus or not or truly what your opinion is of it, if these people show up in my ICU we will take care of them one way or another.’
Leander was photographed wearing a medical mask and scrubs as she and her colleagues were heckled by the protesters, who brandished placards
Arizona has been hit hard by the virus, with 9,707 confirmed cases and 426 deaths so far.
Many of the anti-lockdown protesters who clashed with Leander and her colleagues are fans of President Trump. Many donned Make America Great Again hats and several waved signs in support of the Commander-in-chief.
But Leander says she had no political motivations when showing up to the rally.
‘This isn’t about politics, choosing sides, this virus does not discriminate at all,’ she said.
‘It’s taking lives from one end of the spectrum to another. I know it’s wishful thinking but I just would love if we just had that common ground with fighting this virus.’
‘This virus doesn’t discriminate’: Leander says she had no political motivations when showing up to the rally
Furious protesters claimed the lockdown orders were causing more damage than the spread of the virus
Leander instead says her intention when turning up to the protest was to make sure that an alternative perspective was represented.
‘Our main message was that we wanted healthcare workers’ voices to be heard louder than misinformation and fear,’ she stated.
‘There will be a calm and controlled manner to reopen our economy and our state… you don’t open the flood gates and release everyone at once.’
A Protester attending a rally at the Capitol to ‘re-open’ Arizona against the governor’s stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus argues with a caregiver
Protesters carry automatic assault rifles as they march towards Arizona’s state Captiol on Wednesday
Protesters rally at the Capitol to ‘re-open’ Arizona against the governor’s stay-at-home order
It comes after a team of university experts working on a predictive Covid-19 model were rehired by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The team had been disbanded after saying the state shouldn’t reopen until late May.
The COVID-19 Modeling Group had been working to predict the spread of coronavirus and advising state leaders on the impacts of reopening the state when the project was abruptly shut down by the ADHS on Monday.
The group, consisting of 23 experts from Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, had authored at least two reports for ADHS and determined late May was the earliest the state should start reopening.
Their dismissal came hours after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced businesses in the state would be reopening and stay-at-home orders would be lifted within days – contrary to their recommendations.
However, following mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers, and local and national media attention, the ADHS issued a stunning reversal on Thursday saying it will now maintain an ‘ongoing relationship’ with the experts.
The Arizona Department of Health Services disbanded its own team of researchers working on a predictive COVID-19 model that said the state shouldn’t reopen until late May (pictured ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey)
The move came just hours after Gov. Doug Ducey announced stay at home orders in Arizona would be lifted within days
Chris Minnick, a state Health Department spokesman, said in a written statement that the department communicated with The COVID-19 Modeling Group on Thursday.
‘We’re pleased to announce an ongoing partnership to continue providing models,’ Minnick said, adding that the department was ‘very pleased’ with the model the university team delivered.
‘Understanding the demands on their time, we let them know that we were putting the modeling project on pause until we could bring them back to assist with modeling COVID-19 resource requirements during the influenza season,’ Minnick said, as reported by AZCentral.
‘Since then, the Universities and team members have expressed a willingness to continue doing this work. We are grateful for their dedication and we look forward to an ongoing partnership.’
The drastic about turn comes after ADHS bureau chief of public health statistics S. Robert Bailey sent a letter to the group on Monday, shortly after Ducey announced plans to lift state lockdown orders.
A copy of Bailey’s letter obtained by ABC15, read: ‘We’ve been asked by Department leadership to “pause” all current work on projections modeling.’
Bailey added that he wanted to inform the team as quickly as he could to prevent them from exerting ‘further time of effort needlessly.’
The email said ADHS would also ‘pull back the special data sets which have been shared’ with the researchers, but no explanation was given for the discontinuation of their work.
In his announcement Monday, Gov. Ducey cited a ‘downward trajectory’ on the key metrics tracking the spread of coronavirus as justification for allowing businesses to reopen
Professor Joe Gerald, a member of the modeling team, told ABC he disagreed with Ducey’s perspective. ‘This is not going away soon; it’s something that we’re going to need to be continued to be worried about because our risk of catching this virus still remains relatively high’
In a statement to the network, ADHS later explained the state partly based the decision on their recent adoption of a model from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has not been released to the public.
In his announcement Monday, Gov. Ducey cited a ‘downward trajectory’ on the key metrics tracking the spread of coronavirus as justification for allowing businesses to reopen.
But Professor Joe Gerald, a member of the modeling team, told ABC he disagreed with Ducey’s perspective.
‘This is not going away soon; it’s something that we’re going to need to be continued to be worried about because our risk of catching this virus still remains relatively high.’
The universities’ model had found that waiting until the end of May to ease lockdown restrictions was the only scenario that didn’t cause a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases and subsequent deaths.
In late April, Tim Lant, a mathematical epidemiologist at ASU, said the model showed five different scenarios for how the disease could progress in Arizona, depending on how social distancing efforts were relaxed.
The slowest curve, based on if the state reopened when advised, is ‘the only one that doesn’t put me immediately back on an exponential growth curve,’ Lant said, adding that it’s because the transmission rates would be lowest at that time.
‘I can say, scientifically, no, it’s not safe to reopen unless you’re planning on, you know, shutting down again after a couple of weeks, and we can help figure out what the appropriate amount of time is to stay open before we shut down,’ Lant continued.
In his letter, Bailey said the group could be needed again in later summer or early fall as flu season returns. He thanked the group for its ‘very high quality results’.
A spokesperson for Gov. Ducey told AZ Central the state was using multiple models earlier on, which often had ‘widely divergent’ projections which changed constantly.
‘We now have two months of on-the-ground data,’ the spokesperson said. ‘We’ve been able to see which models are accurate—which match the actual facts and are most useful—and which are not.’
The spokesperson said ADHS’ Dr. Cara Christ made the decision to pause the group after ‘reviewing all the data’.
‘The modeling we are utilizing going forward is developed by FEMA and CDC and ensures our hospitals have capacity for any situation,’ he told AZ Central.
‘That is the case currently, but we aren’t taking any chances. All our decisions are guided by data as well as the recommendations of the CDC and public health officials. This will continue to be the case.’
On Tuesday, Dr. Christ assured the group that they hadn’t been disbanded indefinitely, saying: ‘We just asked them to take a pause for a little bit.
‘We are continuing to get updated FEMA models and we think that that is really representative of where we are. But we did tell them to please stay engaged, because we may need to bring them back in the fall to look at modeling during flu season.’
Christ said it would be ‘pretty easy to just pick up the phone and ask them to come back and help us out,’ if needed.
On Tuesday, Dr. Christ assured the group that they hadn’t been disbanded indefinitely. ‘We just asked them to take a pause for a little bit,’ Christ said
Rep. Ruben Gallego also waded into the debate, insisting when it comes to COVID-19 ‘knowledge is power’
In a letter, Gallego asked the modeling group to ignore Gov. Ducey’s ‘politically motivated order to stop coronavirus modeling work & demand continued access to data. Public health experts need that info to make informed decisions & save lives,’
Democratic State Rep. Kelli Butler of Phoenix called the decision ‘incredibly troubling’ on Twitter.
Rep. Ruben Gallego also waded into the debate, insisting when it comes to COVID-19 ‘knowledge is power’.
‘I’m asking @asu & @uarizona to ignore Gov. Ducey’s politically-motivated order to stop coronavirus modeling work & demand continued access to data. Public health experts need that info to make informed decisions & save lives,’ he said in a tweet, with a signed letter pictured beneath.
In a blog post on the Arizona Public Health Association’s website, the organization’s director, Will Humble, called the move ‘astonishing’.
He said the model was ‘very solid work being done by top talent in the field that is very useful for decision-making purposes.
‘Last night’s action to disband the Arizona COVID-19 Modeling Working Group begs the question whether the Modeling Working Group was producing results that were inconsistent with other messaging and decisions being made by the executive branch?’ he wrote.