Health officials warned Sunday that the anti-racism demonstrations taking place across the country could lead to a new spike in cases of the novel coronavirus, as people mix without masks and without following social distancing requirements.
Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that he’s “concerned” about the spread of coronavirus, even though those concerns have largely taken a back seat to state efforts designed to stop the spread of violence.
“There’s no question that, when you put hundreds or thousands of people together in close proximity when we have got this virus all over the streets, it’s not healthy,” Logan told host Jake Tapper. He noted that the state will be observing a 14-day window — the length of time coronavirus spikes typically take to appear — to see if there is any evidence of a spike resulting from Friday’s and Saturday’s protests.
Elsewhere, city officials suggested that protesters who came in close contact with other people, mainly in large crowds that gathered in cities toward mid-day on Saturday, should get a COVID-19 test sometime this week.
“If you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a COVID test this week,” Atlanta’s mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms warned in a press conference Saturday night. “There is still a pandemic in America that’s killing black and brown people at higher numbers.”
In Minnesota, officials said a spike in protest-related coronavirus cases is likely because of “two crises that are sandwiched on top of one other” — the pandemic and the demonstrations.
The United States has now seen more than 1.7 million cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 100,000 people have died. State and city officials across the U.S. are already concerned about a second wave of the virus, now that many places are beginning to “open up,” releasing coronavirus-related restrictions that kept residents sheltering in place.
The protests began last week after a video emerged showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for more than eight minutes, suffocating Floyd, who was not resisting arrest. By Friday night, the demonstrations were massive, and by Saturday, many had turned violent, with crowds ravaging most major American cities.
Many protesters were wearing masks and, in some places, organizes doled out squirts of hand sanitizer, but, according to experts, masks are only a semi-effective way of preventing the spread of coronavirus and many demonstrators could still catch the disease.
“Health experts fear that silent carriers of the virus who have no symptoms could unwittingly infect others at protests where people are packed cheek to jowl, many without masks,” the New York Post reported Sunday.
“Even those with masks are not guaranteed protection, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying cloth masks are more for stopping infected people spreading the virus than protecting the wearer,” the outlet noted.
Protests are expected to continue Sunday.
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