AN adviser to Donald Trump called on Michigan to "rise up" against a new three-week lockdown that will shut schools and entertainment venues across the state.
Stanford scientist Scott Atlas was later forced to deny inciting violence with his incendiary tweet, which followed an order by Governor Gretchen Whitmer last night.
Michigan's state government imposed the new restrictions after warnings hospitals would be overwhelmed by an "alarming" spike in Covid-19 infections.
Dr Atlas – a White House coronavirus adviser who opposes lockdowns – hit back with a post to his 90,000 followers on Twitter.
He said: "The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp."
It comes after protesters armed with assault rifles marched on the state Capitol, and an alleged militia gang were charged with plotting to kidnap Gov Whitmer last month.
Dr Atlas clarified his position in a later tweet, adding: "Hey. I NEVER was talking at all about violence.
"People vote, people peacefully protest. NEVER would I endorse or incite violence. NEVER!!"
Earlier this month Dr Atlas had to apologise for giving an interview to Kremlin-run TV station RT, a registered agent of a foreign power.
'AT THE PRECIPICE'
New restrictions were announced in Michigan and Washington last night as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US topped 11million.
Gov Whitmer warned her state could suffer 1,000 Covid-related deaths a week without urgent measures.
She said: “The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.”
For three weeks starting on Wednesday, movie theaters and bowling alleys will have to shut and indoor dining will be banned at bars and restaurants.
In-person teaching will be halted at high schools and colleges, although it can continue up to the eighth grade.
But gyms, hair salons and shopping malls will stay open, and gatherings of two households are allowed with social distancing.
Michigan health chief Dr Joneigh Khaldun said: “The data we are seeing is alarming.
"Our healthcare systems are becoming overwhelmed, and our contact tracers cannot keep up.
“If we do not act now, we risk thousands more deaths, and even more people having long-term health consequences."
In Washington state, new limits on social gatherings and indoor dining come into force tonight and will last four weeks.
Governor Jay Inslee said the situation was worse than in March, and yesterday was "the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state's history".
He added: "A pandemic is raging in our state.
"Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues, and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-Covid conditions."
President Trump has ruled out another national lockdown, leaving states to implement their own measures.
Oregon and New Mexico brought in tighter restrictions on Saturday.
Wisconsin and Nevada residents have been asked to stay at home for two weeks to avoid further restrictions.
And cities including New York and Chicago have ordered bars to shut early in an effort to slow the spread.
Last week California became the second state to hit one million Covid-19 cases, after Texas.
Deaths nationwide are averaging over 1,000 a day as the total nears 250,000.
Experts are concerned the Thanksgiving holiday on November 26 could drive another spike in infections.
Mr Trump says he plans to deliver millions of doses of vaccine in December, although none has yet been approved by safety regulators.
Joe Biden's aides have complained the White House is excluding the transition team from planning on the vaccination program.
"Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power on January 20," said the president-elect's chief of staff Ron Klain.
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