July 18, 2020 - 5:43 pm
About 200 people gathered in Henderson on Saturday morning to protest Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mask mandate.
No Mask Nevada, a political action committee, hosted the protest at the corner of South Green Valley Parkway and Paseo Verde Parkway. Committee chairwoman Melissa Blundo said attendees were advocating against the mandate and Henderson Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen, who supports the mask order.
The governor’s mandate went into effect June 26 after several days of increasing coronavirus cases. The mandate requires face coverings to be worn in public spaces, with some exceptions for children, people with disabilities and people eating or drinking. When the mandate was announced June 24, the governor’s office cited research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed masks are among the most effective ways to slow transmission of the virus.
Blundo said she formed the No Mask Nevada committee last month to point out the mandate places the responsibility for its enforcement on business owners without providing proper training and to advocate for an individual’s choice to wear a mask. Blundo, who owns a Pahrump restaurant, said the mandate has caused her to lose business as some customers arrive without masks and others are upset if she does not ask them to leave.
“It’s put small business in tough spots because there are some people with medical reasons not to wear a mask,” Blundo said. “It’s not my responsibility to ask if they have a medical condition and that would be violating ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) laws.”
Blundo said she respects people’s choice to wear a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic but believes there should be an option for those who prefer not to wear one.
Spiking case totals
Clark County reported its highest daily coronavirus case total Thursday with 1,315 new cases, placing Nevada in a coronavirus “red zone,” according to a report by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity prepared for the White House coronavirus task force. New cases dipped slightly to 1,263 on Friday and 1,182 on Saturday.
Meanwhile, on the Strip at around 9:15 a.m. Saturday, many people walking around outside were not wearing masks, despite the face coverings being required inside the casinos and in all public places.
By 4 p.m., the only mask a reporter had observed being worn correctly on the sidewalks of Las Vegas Boulevard was on mascot Minnie Mouse standing outside the Bellagio fountains. Dozens of people walked the streets with masks below their chins or waving in their hands after they exited casinos.
‘It should be a personal choice’
At the Henderson protest, Las Vegas resident Christy Kettler, 42, rolled up and down the sidewalk on roller skates while carrying a large American flag over her shoulder. She said the mandate is “irresponsible,” noting that she believes masks can harbor bacteria and may not be effective against the virus.
“Awareness is going to be the best outcome here,” Kettler said. “It’s good to question things and look at the facts.”
Attendees waved American flags and carried posters reading messages including “NoMaskNevada.com” and “Will not comply.”
The protest reached peak attendance at 11 a.m., an hour into the demonstration, as some protesters urged drivers to remove their masks, while other cars honked in support, drawing cheers from the crowd. A petition to repeal the mask mandate was circulating among attendees. It already has thousands of signatures, Blundo said.
Attendee Mack Miller, a candidate for Assembly District 5, said people may wash their hands and take care of themselves amid the spread of coronavirus without the need for business closures and a mask mandate that he said is “taking away our freedoms.”
“It’s the middle class taking the brunt of this shutdown. This right here — this looks to me like the middle class that care about getting the state back up and running,” Miller said of the protesters.
Anji Gardner, 47, of Las Vegas, said she thinks the coronavirus is not reason enough to require masks and shut down businesses, negatively affecting the economy.
“It should be a personal choice,” Gardner said. “That’s why I’m here — for freedom.”