Protesting amid a global pandemic; Health officials fear spike in cases

Day 2 of protests in Madison against the killing of George Floyd (Source: WMTV)
Day 2 of protests in Madison against the killing of George Floyd (Source: WMTV)(NBC15)
Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 9:08 PM CDT
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As thousands of people from coast to coast continue to protest the death of George Floyd, many have been seen not wearing a mask. As most states are still in the early stages of reopening, what does this mean for the coronavirus pandemic?

While recognizing the significance of the message behind the demonstrations, many government leaders are expressing concern that the progress made to address the public health crisis during stay-at-home orders could be undone. Health officials fear these large gatherings could lead to a second wave of infections.

Recent protests in Madison come about a week after Dane County began the process of reopening.

Healthcare leaders say “the protests create the perfect situation for COVID-19.”

As thousands take to the streets calling for change doctors don’t want people to forget about the safety measures needed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

‘As anticipated, since the Safer at Home order ended, we are seeing slightly increased volumes of hospitalized patients who are suffering from COVID-19,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, Chief Quality Officer at UW Health.

As states reopen and testing capacity increases, health officials say cases will spike but the widespread protests create an added concern. “Some of those protesters are masked but many are not," said Dr. Pothof.

Another concern is lack of physical distancing. "Frequently at protests you're yelling or you're shouting. We know that generates more droplets than just talking," said Pothof. Droplets is how the virus spreads. "If you look at some of the techniques law enforcement has had to use, tear gas and pepper spray...that increases secretions and increases coughing...which the virus loves to use to infect more people,’ said Dr. Pothof.

Health officials will be keeping a close eye on the number of cases in the next two to three weeks. Doctors say you should continue to follow COVID-19 safety precautions, including wearing a mask in public.

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