WASHINGTON D.C. - Recent protests across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd could lead to new surges in coronavirus cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Friday.
"It is the perfect set-up for the spread of the virus in the sense of creating some blips which might turn into some surges,” Fauci, a member of President Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, told radio station WTOP-FM in Washington, D.C.
His comments came as the U.S. edged closer to 2 million confirmed infections and 110,000 virus-related deaths, and the globe neared 7 million infections and 400,000 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.
After months of confinement due to governors' stay-at-home orders, thousands across the country have taken to the streets for more than a week to protest the police-custody death of Floyd – a black man who succumbed after a white officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25 in Minneapolis.
“As I sat in front of the TV and watched the screen go from Washington, D.C., to New York City, to Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, I got really concerned,” Fauci told the Sunday Times of London. “I was going, ‘Oh my goodness. I hope this doesn’t set us back a lot.’ [After] all of the work in trying to maintain the physical distance and doing all the things, I became very concerned that we might see a resurgence."
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While some in the massive crowds have worn masks, others haven’t -- and no one is social distancing, he said.
The protests bring together people from different areas, many of them virus hotspots, Fauci said. The participants then return home and create a “perfect recipe” for a resurgence of the virus.
Chanting and yelling, as people typically do during protests, also increases the risk of spread, he said.
“I get very concerned, as do my colleagues in public health, when they see these kinds of crowds,” Fauci said. “There certainly is a risk. I can say that with confidence.”
The only thing public health officials can do is constantly remind people to be careful and always wear a mask, Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told WTOP.
Officials in cities with protests have urged demonstrators to get tested for the virus. Cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have set up mobile testing centers for protesters.
"It's a difficult situation. We have the right to peacefully demonstrate and the demonstrators are exercising that right,” Fauci added. “It's a delicate balance because the reasons for demonstrating are valid and yet the demonstration itself puts oneself at an additional risk."
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