By Morgan Bridgeman, Contributing Writer, ASU Intern
Amid the death of George Floyd on May 25th, millions around the world have gathered in demonstrations to protest his death and other injustices in America. However, these protests come in the midst of a global pandemic due to the coronavirus. These big gatherings of protesters in the middle of COVID-19 have many people as well as health officials worried that there will be a huge spike in new cases, especially in those areas with many pre-existing cases.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, said in a press conference on June 8th that the organization supports demonstrations that are being held around the world. In saying this, Ghebreyesus asks for protestors to follow the guidelines set out by their local health officials and taking the necessary steps to protect themselves and others from the virus. Michael Ryan, director WHO’s emergencies program, also said at the press conference that healthy people protesting side by side is the best situation when it comes to not spreading the virus but that situation is not the case in every protest.
The fear that arises among public health officials is the close contact that people endure while out protesting. This concern is especially heightened when there are people out on the street without masks. Public health officials advise those who are going out to protest to wear masks at all times and try to keep a safe distance as much as possible. They are also asking those who have coronavirus symptoms to stay home and away from those protests.
Since the protests started, some cities, such as Denver, have started offering protestors free coronavirus testing. Some health officials are calling for other cities to follow suit and have testing available for protestors since they are of high risk. At some protests, medical workers are on scene providing care to protestors to make sure that it is a safe environment.
As of Sunday June 7th, the United States hit a record as 136,000 new cases were reported. This is not to say that all these cases were due to protesting since many cities around the country are starting to reopen businesses. Health officials believe that the impact that protesting has on COVID-19 cases will not be seen for a couple of weeks. This is because the coronavirus normally has an incubation time of around two weeks. Not yet knowing how many cases will occur because of protesting, health officials are urging those protesting to be as safe as possible.