By: KayLynn Roberts-McMurray
A day before the Fourth of July parade was scheduled to kick off in Ely, White Pine Public Health Officer, David Byun recommended the cancellation of the parade, the community breakfast and closing off firework viewing areas to elected officials in an email. An email that came to officials at 2 a.m. Friday, July 3, 2020.
What prompted Byun’s 2a.m. Email? Four cases in one week, and the indication of a community spread.
As Byun stated in his email, “I write in haste as time is short. I would like to express my deepest concerns over the much anticipated July 4th events in our community. In light of recent events with multiple and accelerated number of COVID cases in our community with emerging evidence of community spread, I do not believe it would be prudent to proceed with the festivities, much to the dismay of the community.”
Byun goes on in his letter to explain the contact tracing that is being performed by 3 people in the community, one of which is Byun, learned that their ability to contact trace did not match the increase rate of COVID cases. He went on to explain that one contact tracer resigned from their duty after an overwhelming negative experience while performing the task of contact tracer.
Byun’s concerns were strong, explaining that he briefed hospital leadership staff in preparations for the aftermath of a sharp up-slope he was seeing. “It is important to note that a positive result today does not reflect the trend of that day. This means that a positive result today reflects the trend of a week ago.” Byun said.
City of Ely Mayor Nathan Robertson, and District Attorney Mike Wheable spoke live on KDSS radio station, July 3, explaining that an individual that had tested positive for COVID-19 had been reportedly seen around town at local bar establishments and at the softball fields, where leagues were playing two nights a week. Wheable, “it’s precisely because this individual did not follow those mandates and that is why there is a community spread, and why we are here today cancelling these events.”
It is here, it is spreading through the workplace, it is possibly spreading through our restaurants and bar establishments, so we need to be more proactive now and take precautionary measures so we can continue to try enjoy some normality for the rest of the summer. What we don’t need is the Governor telling us I told you so, and we go back to Phase 1” Wheable said.
Robertson, “whether the Governor says that, we don’t want this type of spread in this community. Neither the City or the County is mandating the cancellation of these events, we are acting on the recommendation of the our County Health officer and these organizations that put on these events decided to be responsible and do what’s right.”
The President of the Great Basin Club, Bunny Hill, immediately announced the cancellation of the parade on Aultman street. Hill said, “Due to an increase of confirmed COVID cases we felt for everyone’s well being that the parade be cancelled. The decision was not easy, but we want everyone to remain healthy.”
The community breakfast sponsored by the White Pine Tourism and Recreation Board modified the breakfast to a drive thru style.
But, despite the heavy recommendation from Byun, Social media sources refused to accept the recommendations, and efforts began to coordinate a parade, some calling it a peaceful protest, or rally. Aron Huntington put out the message on Facebook, calling for a peaceful protest July 4th. “Meet at 10:30 at Broadbent park, bring your masks, your floats, your old cars, and your flags. Let’s do this. We still have the permit to use Aultman street to parade through town to show our pride to America and our Independence.
Although Sheriff Scott Henriod explained that the group on Saturday, didn’t have permits to hold a parade, or protest on Aultman, he called it a gathering of people, in his radio interview on Monday with the KDSS radio station.
The permit had been canceled by the Great Basin Service Club, but there were over 50 vehicles seen driving down Main Street slow, several people in the vehicles throwing candy, while children scrambled to pick up the candy off the pavement. And the traditional gathering of the volunteer firefighters pulling the fire hose down Aultman street could be seen at the parade as well.
White Pine County Commissioner, Ian Bullis was seen participating in the parade Saturday as well. In a live stream video, Bullis stated, “they told us we couldn’t have a parade on the Fourth of July to celebrate independence, government officials tell us we can’t have a parade to celebrate independence well this is what the people have to say about that.”
The fireworks show still took place, but several areas were closed off so that social distancing could be adhered to.
Comments from several on social media expressed their appreciation of the parade. Pam Sanford, “This made me so proud of our community.” Terry Stanger, “way to go Ely, Rednecks Win! Tamara Sandoval, “It was fun, great turn out.”
Others expressed their frustration, and distaste in the parade. Gina Sedgwick, “we stayed home, we did not agree with the shut down of the parade but we respected the concerns.”
Wheable expressed his frustration of the situation, “if you get a call from a contact tracer saying you have been exposed to someone who tested positive you need to stay home for the next 5 days, because that is the one thing I am going to enforce, is quarantine orders specifically from the public health officer because that is protecting the community as a whole. “
White Pine currently has had 16 positive COVID-19 cases, 700 tests have been administered, 658 tests have resulted in a negative result, and 31 tests are currently pending according to William Bee Ririe’s Hospital’s social media page.