Updated August 9, 2020 - 12:12 am
About 200 No Mask Nevada activists gathered at a street corner in northwest Las Vegas on Saturday to protest the state’s mask mandate.
Melissa Blundo, chairman of the No Mask Nevada PAC, said that Saturday’s rally at the corner of Cheyenne Avenue and Durango Drive in state Senate District 6 was the fifth protest the PAC has organized, each within different Senate districts.
“We believe that we should have freedom of choice to wear a mask or not,” Blundo said. “We absolutely aren’t against anybody wearing masks. If you want to wear a mask, we fully support that.”
The group also protested against state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro. Demonstrators held a banner criticizing Cannizzaro, who represents District 6 and is running for re-election, over her support for Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mask mandate.
A few dozen people had arrived toting signs and flags, but no face masks, before the rally started at 10 a.m., and more than 200 had joined in by the time it ended an hour and a half later.
Emergency directives from the governor’s office mandate the wearing of face masks in public and limit public gatherings to 50 or fewer people.
“It’s good to know that the silent majority is stopping being so silent,” Blundo said, “because that’s something that I’ve been disappointed with.”
Blundo said she suspects that many people disagree with mask mandates but comply because they feel they have no choice in the matter. She added she hopes the PAC’s protests will show them that there are like-minded people in their community.
Many signs in the crowd targeted Sisolak, who took to Twitter on Friday to criticize attendees who refused to wear masks to a Trump campaign rally Thursday in Las Vegas, as well as the campaign and hotel itself for defying the state’s emergency directive that limits the size of public gatherings. Organizers said more than 500 attended the event.
“We are still in the middle of an AIDS epidemic, still, and they have never closed down the government for AIDS and HIV, said Mack Miller, a candidate running for Nevada Assembly District 5, who stood with others protesting emergency directives at Saturday’s rally. “Is there a mandate that we wear condoms?”
Miller said that emergency mandates that require people to follow medical experts’ advice during a global pandemic infringe on their civil rights, unless residents and business owners have a choice in whether to follow them.
The effect of emergency pandemic directives on local economies could be more deadly than the virus itself, Miller said.
John Niems, a local piano tuner technician, said that he has never bought or worn a face mask but that his business is thriving during the pandemic.
“The ones that tell me to wear a mask to the house, I tell them, ‘No, I’m not wearing a mask. Call someone else,’” he said.
Niems said he has no fear of catching the coronavirus because he believes that viruses cannot leave the human body once they are inside and, as such, cannot be contagious.
Several other attendees at the protest carried signs decrying medical science and the mainstream media, including some that expressed or referenced conspiracy theories about COVID-19 that have been debunked.
COVID-19 data released by Nevada health officials Saturday showed that the past week was the deadliest yet in the state, with a total death toll of 117 over the preceding seven days.
As of Saturday, officials reported 949 deaths statewide from COVID-19, including 799 within Clark County alone. To date, 55,419 positive cases have been identified in Nevada.