Protests spurred by the death of George Floyd while in police custody might make one feel as though we’ve returned to the civil rights protests of the 1960s, but we have not.

It’s unfortunate timing that U.S. citizens feel compelled to demonstrate while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, but that is the case.

In our region, peaceful protests have occurred in Paintsville, Huntington and Charleston. Protests are planned for Ashland Sunday and Ironton on Monday. We believe those, too, will be peaceful.

Protesting is a valuable tool for social change and it’s a basic right for Americans. We applaud Americans who care enough about an issue to demonstrate and pray they will remain safe and the event will be orderly.

But it isn’t the 1960s.

There is an additional threat to protestors in 2020 and that is the COVID-19 virus.

Even though we are tired of social distancing, we miss our favorite restaurants and social activities and we are uncomfortable wearing masks, the virus exists and it lingers, even here, where we have been relatively lucky with fewer cases and deaths than many parts of the country.

If we want to continue that trend, we must protect ourselves, even as we protest.

Health officials in the area have reminded us to continue wearing masks, keep our 6 feet from one another and wash our hands with soap and water (or with hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available). We’ve also been reminded to shower and wash our clothes if we’ve been in close contact with others. Certainly, those who have any symptoms of illness and those with health conditions that weaken the immune system should not participate, do matter how strongly they feel about the issue.

There is no doubt protests such as the ones planned for Sunday and Monday will put participants closer together than is safe. That is why every other precaution must be observed, not only to keep protesters safe but to keep the virus from being transferred from protestors to those they will come into contact with in the coming weeks.

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