Protestors, health officials at odds over right to choose and protecting public health

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — In the second rally over the past few weeks calling to open up Kansas completely, protesters lined the sidewalks in front of the statehouse Saturday afternoon to voice their frustrations with current and previous restrictions, put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

While the state is now in the beginning phase of reopening, it’s presented some people with a glimmer of hope of returning back to normal. Protesters at Saturday’s rally say it’s not happening quickly enough.

“For the rest of us who are healthy and whose businesses aren’t open and who aren’t working, yeah, we should be getting back to work,” said protester Shayne Sawyer.

A common theme brought up by speakers at the rally was that it should be up to individuals to choose what’s best for them during the pandemic, not the government.

Shawnee County Health Officer Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino said when that when people’s choices start putting others at risk, that’s when health officials must step in.

“I can tell you I will do everything in my power to prevent you from hurting our community if you start exhibiting irresponsible behaviors that do not take into account the orders of public health authorities,” said Pezzino.

For some, the restrictions have created extreme financial burdens.

“They’re all hurting,” said protestor Tracy Cooksey. “They’re dying. They’re bleeding and nobody has the right to take that from anybody.”

Others believe the response to the virus has been overblown. Dr. Pezzino said people can disagree with public health guidelines, but it’s not okay to disobey them.

“Your rights stop where you infringe on my right to be healthy,” said Pezzino.

County health officials are urging people to continue following public health guidelines throughout the process of reopening, because if they’re abandoned all together, it could set us back and the process could take even longer.

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