A North Carolina man hired an airplane to orchestrate a high-flying counter protest in response to demonstrators who are demanding the state lift its stay-at-home restrictions during the coronavirus.
The plane towed a long banner that read: "FEWER GRAVES IF WE REOPEN IN WAVES" over a crowd of ReOpenNC protesters, who marched in downtown Raleigh on Tuesday.
Todd Stiefel, the man behind the banner, said he really wanted to face the protesters in person. But he said he felt it would not be safe because he has a condition called common variable immunodeficiency, which makes him vulnerable to viruses and bacteria.
"I've been trying to figure out a way to voice an opinion for those who can't show up in mass and make a very public display," he told CNN in a phone interview. "It dawned (on) me: what about those planes that fly over the beach that pull those big banners?"
He looked online and found someone who would fly around with his message for the entire four hour protest for $3,500.
"It was worth every penny," Stiefel said.
North Carolina started easing restrictions on May 8 as part of its three phase reopening plan.
In Phase 1, retail outlets can open at 50% capacity, restaurants and bars can offer takeout and delivery and childcare centers are open for working parents and families looking for work.
Salons, barber shops, gyms, movie theaters and many other businesses are still closed.
North Carolina has reported 15,950 coronavirus cases and 616 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In the last month, protests have popped up in states across the US -- including Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota and Utah -- over stay-at-home restrictions. Those who have flocked to the streets have voiced their concerns about the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stiefel said he empathizes with the protesters, who are concerned about losing their businesses, but he said its important to balance economic concerns with people's safety.
"The people who are protesting now are not there for balance they want everything back to a normal that doesn't exist anymore," he said.
Because of his condition, Stiefel said he and his teenage children haven't really gone anywhere in two months. His wife, Diana, goes out as little as possible to buy groceries or pick up medicine.
"We don't do takeout food, we don't do delivery food, my doctor advises against all of that, he said. "Everything gets Cloroxed or sits for three days."
They have visited his mother, who's also been under a strict quarantine.
Stiefel said he can work from home and he doesn't know when he'll be able to be back out in the world.
"I'm going to be indoors for a long time. It's going to be a very long time before I can go back to normal. I don't know how long," he said.
He said he's received emails and Facebook messages from a lot of people, who are in the same position.
"I've had a number of imunocompromised people thank me for giving them a voice and that feels great, it really does," he said.
Stiefel said he'd originally only planned to do this once, but he's thinking about expanding this and even flying the banner in other states.