This week, thousands of Americans are congregating in cities across the country protesting the death of George Floyd nightly. All the efforts to convey the importance of social distancing has been forgotten by demonstrators who are out in the streets against social injustice.
The large gatherings, infectious disease experts said, could cause a catastrophic setback for controlling COVID-19 in the U.S. as cities and states work to reopen.
“It makes me cringe on a number of levels,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti, medical director for infection prevention at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It’s a setup for further spread of COVID,” Passaretti added. “It’s heartbreaking.”
The national protests comes amid a global pandemic, which has already sickened more than 1.7 million people in the U.S. and killing nearly 105,000.
COVID-19 spreads mainly through close contact, particularly large respiratory droplets from sneezes, coughs, including shouting and yelling.
“If you were out protesting this week you probably need to go get a COVID test this week,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at a news briefing Sunday, “because there’s still a pandemic in America that’s killing black and brown people at higher numbers.”
“It’s concerning on a number of fronts, amid multiple horrible situations,” Passaretti said. “It’s hard to step back and believe all this is going on at the same time.”
On Sunday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former chief of the Food and Drug Administration warned that the U.S. “isn’t through this epidemic” yet. “Chains of transmission will have become lit from these gatherings,“ Gottlieb told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
While many protestors appear to be wearing face coverings, the act of social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet away from other people is most definitely not happening. It is important to know that face masks are not intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but experts relay they can help reduce the risk of spreading the illness to others.
“Masks aren’t perfect, but a layer of protection is better than not having anything,” Passaretti said.
An additional concern is that protesters may be traveling to and from a various cities and states, potentially aiding in the spread of the virus.
“People are coming from other locations to major cities,” Passaretti said. “So not only is there potential for spread at a given protest, people may take that back home,” and spread the virus to other areas.