- Florian Reifschneider, a 29-year-old software engineer, wanted to get the world’s attention about the dangers of COVID-19.
- He created #StayTheF**kHome, a movement and quarantine manifesto that 2.3 million people have seen.
- The project was created after Reifschneider, who is currently in Germany, got frustrated with the German government’s lack of action.
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More than 2 million have pledged to #Staythef**khome, joining a movement that aims to inspire people around the world to stay inside and avoid spreading the new coronavirus.
The campaign, made by Florian Reifschneider, a 29-year-old German-American software engineer, was launched on March 7, days before Italy placed the region of Lombardy in lockdown, with nearly 6,000 people infected and more than 200 deaths.
By that point, Reifschneider, who had already been in isolation with his girlfriend in Frankfurt since mid-February, was stewing about the government’s lack of precautions.
“I realised hoping for governments to preemptively implement measures that could actually slow the spread of the disease was a lost cause,” Reifschneider told Insider. So he decided to make a site with a quarantine manifesto (rule #1: don’t panic, but be alert) and catchy hashtag that could get the world’s attention and #StayTheF*ckHome was born.
The message was targeted at all the people still going to restaurants and movies and living their ordinary lives.
“It has been an uphill battle for sure,” he said. “People don’t want to believe that a virus that emerged somewhere in China could actually affect their lives, or even pose a real threat to them or their loved ones.”
Reifschneider created the site as a reaction to all the confusion over social distancing
The CDC and the WHO both recommended that people distance themselves from the general public and self-isolate. But until recently, that wasn’t the norm in many countries.
While Spain and Italy were on lockdown, with all restaurants and schools closed, up until March 16 it was acceptable for Brits to go out to crowded bars, restaurants and workplaces. That has only recently begun to shift, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson encouraging citizens to avoid “all non-essential contact with others.” Meanwhile many experts have accused America of delaying its response and endangering residents.
Reifschneider, who’s been following the COVID-19 outbreak since it was just a few people getting sick in Wuhan, China, started taking preventative measures early on. He stopped shaking hands and high-fiving people at work at Rocketloop, a software company, early on. By mid-February, all Rocketloop employees were working from home.
But, in Germany, he says, many people were still convinced the new virus was just a bad flu, and the government was holding back on banning soccer matches and other large gatherings.
“After the outbreak in Italy and rising numbers of infected people in other countries, I got frustrated at the almost negligent reaction that most governments had shown up to that point,” he said.
Since it launched, #StayTheFHome has been trending on Twitter. It got so popular that Reifschneider had to make a safe-for-work version of the hashtag, after receiving criticism about the provocative name of the campaign.
The site’s been translated into 20 languages, and Reifschneider’s looking to translate it into many more. “We have received hundreds of emails from people all across the globe that wanted to contribute and volunteered their time to translate the website into their native languages,” Reifschneider told Insider.
“Our goal is to reach as many people as possible with this in order to actually leave a mark,” Reifschneider said, “but honestly, if we can keep one person from getting infected or even better, infecting someone more vulnerable to this disease, it has already been worth our time creating this.”