George Floyd Protests Expected to Cause a Resurgence of Coronavirus Cases Soon, Experts Say

Getty U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks during the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the James Brady Briefing Room April 10, 2020, at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told Politico he expects a new wave of coronavirus to hit soon in the wake of large gatherings nationwide protesting police brutality after the death of George Floyd.

Adams told Politico, “Based on the way the disease spreads, there is every reason to expect that we will see new clusters and potentially new outbreaks moving forward.”

For nearly three months, Americans and people around the world have been staying home, social distancing, avoiding crowds, diligently washing hands and not touching their faces, all in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

For the last week, much of that has been abandoned as crowds stand together night after night in protest in reaction to the needless death of George Floyd. Floyd’s death was caught on video and shared across the internet, sparking an uprising of demonstrators seeking justice and change. Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death.


Chanting, Yelling & Being Close to Others for Long Periods of Time Are Ways the Virus Spreads

GettyProtesters rally for George Floyd in Marin City, California, on June 2, 2020.

The virus is expelled from respiratory droplets that come out when people cough, yell, chant, sing or sneeze. Inherent to most protests are yelling and chanting in large groups together. Some protests also involve smoke bombs and tear gas that can cause people to cough. Burning, watery eyes from those crowd control measures mean people may rub their eyes, another possible way to transmit coronavirus.

Epidemiologist Bob Bednarczyk at Emory University told CNBC, “I am very concerned about the use of tear gas to break up these protests,” he said. “When there is a respiratory disease pandemic occurring, the use of a chemical that causes people to cough violently can lead to more spread of disease.”

Mark Shrime, a public-health researcher at Harvard, told The Atlantic, “I don’t think there’s a question of whether there will be spikes in cases in 10 to 14 days. With so many protests happening, that are getting so much bigger, I don’t think it’s a question of if, but when and where.”


A Minnesota National Guard Member Tested Positive for COVID-19 & the Agency Told CNBC It Will be Testing All 7,000 Deployed Service Members for the Virus as a Result

GettyTrucks transport District of Columbia National Guard troops along Pennsylvania Avenue in support of law enforcement officers keeping demonstrators away from the White House June 1, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

After a Minnesota National Guard member tested positive for COVID-19, spokesman Scott Hawks told CNBC, “We have made efforts to wear masks and to encourage social distancing where possible, however when you create a line to protect people or buildings you are shoulder to shoulder. These are the required risks that we accept when in uniform to keep the public safe and restore peace and order.”

Nine other service members are showing symptoms of COVID-19, according to the agency.

The agency did not say how much interaction the infected service member had with the public during the protests or with colleagues, or when the person tested positive.

According to MinnPost, health officials in Minnesota are “working on guidance encouraging everyone who has attended protests or other mass gatherings over the last week to get tested for COVID-19, since they could be at risk of infection. That will include people who feel ill or have no symptoms.”

State epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield told the MinnPost that wearing masks does help, and the outdoor nature of the protests also decreases the risk of the virus spreading, but with so many other factors at play with the chanting, yelling and coughing, being in close proximity with large crowds still poses a danger of COVID-19 spreading.

READ NEXT: Federal Prisons on Lockdown For Second Time in US History Amid George Floyd Protests


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