The town’s health director Heidi Porter said Friday that she plans to reach out to leaders of the spontaneous local anti-racism demonstrations about the importance of practices that will mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
And Porter also emphasized that there are other public health dimensions to the protests – specifically, the mental health benefits of speaking out against the epidemic of racism.
Demonstrators have been rallying near then Town Common early evenings this week, mirroring activities in most area cities and towns in response to the murders of unarmed Black citizens and systemic racism in society. Most of the participants wear facemasks, but the six-foot social-distancing is often ignored. There also is a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10.
Porter said she has been following guidelines, as state law enforcement and health officials advised local health directors not to intervene to enforce mass gathering or social distancing violations while protesting. This directive was passed along during a weekly conference call with the state officials, she said.
“They have a right to be there,” the health director continued, “and intervention could be considered adversarial.” Nevertheless, she said, now that the events appear to be happening daily, she hopes to connect with participants to stress the importance of social distancing to reduce transmission. Porter noted that there are markings on the sidewalk to make it easy to calculate, and the numbers could spread out along the street.