car with "we lost liberty to a virus" written on back windshield Facebook Photo/Scott Koch

The head of the Arizona Republican Party said healthcare workers opposing efforts to reopen the state’s economy were “propaganda.” 

Videos of nurses standing in crosswalks and in front of buildings to counter-protest efforts to reopen the economy made their way across the internet this week. 

And while many people chimed in with support for the frontline workers, Dr. Kelli Ward, chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, accused them of being “actors.” 

“EVEN IF these “spontaneously” appearing ppl at protests against govt overreach (sporting the same outfits, postures, & facial expressions) ARE involved in healthcare – when they appeared at rallies, they were actors playing parts,” she said in a tweet. 

Ward pointed to a Buzzfeed article in which a photographer in Denver said she didn’t know if the counter-protesters were actual healthcare professionals. Buzzfeed also noted it couldn’t verify if the counter-protesters were employed at local hospitals. 

But many healthcare workers have been wary of identifying themselves and their places of work to the media, as some have been disciplined for sharing their concerns. The photographer said even if the counter-protesters aren’t medical professionals, “it’s more about the message they were sending.”

Ward also made her judgment based on the counter-protesters’ faces, which were often covered by sunglasses and masks.

“People who wear scrubs and masks & stand around scowling are rarely healthcare workers,” she tweeted. “Most of us understand scrubs & masks are for when we are at work, we don’t have time to stand around, & the vast majority of us have smiling, caring, sunny dispositions!” 

RELATED: COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise as Protesters Plan Rallies to Demand Reopening State

However, AZFamily spoke to one of the counter-protesters who did identify herself as an ICU nurse at a local hospital.

“A majority of the comments were that I was a paid actor from my hospital or the government to stand there and protest against these people, which was not [the case] at all,” Lauren Leander said. “I was there on my day off.”

The Arizona Republic spoke to another nurse, Jasmine Bhatti, who said she came to the protest to “be the voice” of people who have died from COVID-19. She said she wished that the protesters “could see what it is that our nurses and physician colleagues are seeing every single day.”

Healthcare workers across the country have faced long hours, a shortage of medical supplies needed to protect themselves and their patients, isolation from friends and family, and the extra stress of possibly spreading the disease outside of their workplace. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 27 healthcare workers in the country have died from COVID-19, and more than 9,000 have tested positive. But due to a lack of widespread testing, the CDC pointed out, the numbers are likely much higher.


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