At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, protests against state-mandated PPE and shelter-in-place restrictions occurred in cities across the United States. For those who have adhered to the quarantine and all attempts to 'flatten the curve', the protests weeks ago as well as the more recent protests against a mandatory mask rule in Palm Beach County were justified. They believe these "safety precautions" to be frustrating and absurd. Protesters who spoke at a Palm Beach Commissioners meeting accused doctors of "crimes against humanity", in addition to questioning the credentials of many of the doctors present.
While it is disheartening to hear so many deny a clear and proven threat, it is not without precedent. Humanity has often reacted similarly in the past. In 1831, Russia was an uncertain nation with a deep-rooted distrust between the lower socioeconomic classes and the wealthy ruling class. Russia was not prepared or in a position for the second cholera pandemic. Cholera at the time was not well understood and came to describe a variety of diseases with similar symptoms falling. Thus began the confusion of the people as governments and doctors would deem some cases of cholera as worse than others. As the severity continued to increase, quarantines were put in place to quell the spread, as cholera was thought at the time to be caused by the "miasma theory", which is bad or toxic air.
Very quickly in Russia, these quarantines were viewed as an attempt by the educated and ruling class to group together the sick and poor, not for their benefit, but to "cull the herd". This opinion was only worsened with the military response to enforce the quarantine rulings. The riots took place from 1830 to 1831, and during this time, a conspiracy theory arose that the Tsarist government was responsible for the sickness. At the time, it was not deemed a form of chemical warfare, but actually that the more educated and ruling class were poisoning the wells. As a result, doctors, sanitary inspectors, and anyone who tried to enforce these regulations were the first victims of these riots.
Crowds that gathered in St. Petersburg to protest were fueled by a well-established tension between the classes. At one time, they ransacked the city's main cholera hospital in an attempt to find doctors and put them to death for poisoning the poor. The riots came to an end when Nicholas I came to the market square and demanded the crowd kneel and take off their hats in deference to him. This effectively quelled the disorder, however, the real cause of the outbreak and subsequent riots were not addressed. The horrible quality of drinking water in St. Petersburg and increasing tension between the classes continued into the next century.
These riots compare to today's skepticism of doctors and the medical industry as a whole. While no one is ransacking hospitals, it is important to note that those working in the medical field are mainly concerned with the health of the public. Doubting those most educated will only worsen the effects of the virus and take the focus off of actual problems in our society. As Russia was left in a tumultuous state, we too must make an effort to fix the problems highlighted by this pandemic in our country.