CDC warns of protests and COVID-19 spread

June 8, 2020

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has resulted in 10 days and nights of protests against racial injustice in major cities from California to Washington, DC, and Robert Redfield, MD, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told members of Congress that protesters need to get tested for COVID-19. Redfield noted that D.C. and Minneapolis—two cities with the largest mass gatherings—still have significant community spread.

"I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event," Redfield said, according to the Washington Post. "And the way to minimize it is to have each individual to recognize it is to the advantage of them to protect their loved ones, to [say]: 'Hey, I was out. I need to go get tested.' You know, in three, five, seven days, go get tested. Make sure you're not infected."

The Minnesota Department of Health is urging testing for all protesters and anyone involved in subsequent cleanup efforts across the Twin Cities. State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said anyone with symptoms should get tested, as well as asymptomatic people five to seven days after attending a mass gathering. If those tests are negative, Malcom urges a retest at 12 to 14 days post-event.

Redfield voiced concerns that CDC messaging on maintaining six feet of distance in public and wearing face coverings were not resonating with Americans, and pointed to pictures of crowds gathering at Memorial Day parties in Missouri and the recent SpaceX launch in Florida as evidence that Americans were not taking physical distancing seriously.

In addition to large crowds of people gathering, shouting, and marching shoulder to shoulder, the protests have led to a slew of arrests and the use of tear gas and pepper spray by police and the National Guard. Those factors may also contribute to a COVID-19 spike, experts said.

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