Leader of North Carolina Protests Against Stay-at-Home Tests Positive for Coronavirus

A leader of a Facebook group demanding that North Carolina allow businesses to reopen amid the Covid-19 pandemic has tested positive for coronavirus but is still insisting that Governor Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order be rescinded, saying it violates her right to freedom of religion.

Audrey Whitlock is one of the leaders of the ReOpen NC Facebook group, which has close to 70,000 online members and has organized weekly in-person rallies demanding that the state reopen. Whitlock described herself as an "asymptomatic Covid-19 patient" in a since-deleted post to the group on Sunday morning. Regardless of her potential to infect others, she said that abiding by the governor's orders meant her rights were being violated.

"The reality is that modern society has not been able to eradicate contagious viruses. A typical public health quarantine would occur in a medical facility," Whitlock wrote, according to WNCN. "I have been told not to participate in public or private accommodations as requested by the government, and therefore denied my 1st amendment right of freedom of religion."

Reopen NC Protest
A protestor is arrested after refusing to leave a parking lot during a demonstration organized by the group ReOpen NC in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 14, 2020. LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty

Cooper recently extended his stay-at-home order to be effective through May 8. Whitlock's post said that "political affiliation[s] all become irrelevant when you are fighting for freedom" but concluded with a call to "remove Roy Cooper from office in November."

She also claimed that enforcing the quarantine orders could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, lamenting that "it has been insinuated by others that if I go out, I could be arrested for denying a quarantine order."

Although she appears to have deleted the post, Whitlock confirmed to local news outlet WTVD that she had tested positive for virus. She refused to indicate whether she tested negative before releasing herself from quarantine and answered "no comment" when asked if she had attended a protest the group held last week.

The North Carolina Democratic party reacted to the news with a statement saying that the group had continued to "demonstrate a jaw dropping lack of social responsibility and a complete disregard for our first responders and health workers on the front lines of this crisis."

Whitlock is not the only North Carolinian who cites religion in opposing the governor's stay-at-home order after having been personally impacted by the potentially deadly disease. Davidson county resident Colleen Gill Sprinkle told WXII that she disapproves of the restrictions despite having lost her 88-year-old father to the virus and becoming infected herself.

"If you're able to go out and do some things but you're not able to do other things, to me, that's just not right," Sprinkle told the outlet. "I just don't understand the part because, like I said, you can go to stores and stuff and you're around people, even though you may have a mask and gloves on. But yet, you can't be in church."

"To me, that's just not right because that is very important to all of us," she added. "And it was very important to my dad."

Newsweek reached out to Cooper's office for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.