Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick encouraged protesters to practice social distancing if they participate in an upcoming rally to promote the reopening of businesses in Nevada.
People are expected to gather Saturday morning in Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Las Vegas in protest of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s stay-at-home order, which started last month to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
At a press briefing on Friday, Dick said he respects the public’s right to freedom of speech, but he also values lives.
“I would strongly, strongly encourage the protesters to please follow that direction from the governor,” Dick said. “Maintain your social distancing.”
He then emphasized that gatherings could easily spread of COVID-19. He also referenced television footage of a protest that took place on April 18, where crowds mingled in close proximity, many of them not wearing a mask.
“Work as best as you can to try and prevent the spread of disease,” he said.
The upcoming protest, organized by Operation Nevada, is set to start in Reno at 11 a.m. Saturday at Rancho San Rafael, according to its website.
Washoe County officials said protest organizers were denied a permit to march through Rancho San Rafael park.
And if people show up anyway?
“At that point, it becomes a law enforcement issue and the sheriff’s office is aware,” county spokeswoman Amy Ventetuolo told the RGJ.
The county said much of the park technically remains open to the public, though “many of the facilities and recreational equipment” were closed after Gov. Steve Sisolak’s statewide shutdown order.
Although the site promotes social distancing, several people were seen crowding together at the state Capitol at the protest on April 18.
During that protest, an estimated 200 people gathered at the state Capitol. Many lined the sidewalks and marched while waving both the American flag and the state flag.
Participants also waived posters, some that read: “Enough is Enough.” Others drove along Carson Street while honking and cheering.
According to Operation Nevada, the protest on Saturday “will be massively bigger than the last.”
“If we are not open by May, we will keep coming in larger groups,” organizers said on the event website.
Read or Share this story: https://www.rgj.com/story/news/2020/04/24/health-officer-protest-free-speech-matters-but-so-does-your-life/3023163001/