Will the George Floyd protests set off the next wave of coronavirus?

  • A second wave had been predicted for the second half of 2020
  • Close contact at protests may cause a larger spike within a month
  • If you attended a protest, you should get tested for COVID-19

After more than a week of large demonstrations around the country protesting the police killing of George Floyd, public health officials fear these gatherings will catalyze the next wave of the coronavirus. 

Since April, a second wave of COVID-19 infections had been to happen in the autumn or winter of 2020. But with so many people meeting in one place to protest, possibly transmitting the virus despite the fact that many were wearing masks, experts are expecting a new peak to be right around the corner

“There’s going to be a lot of issues coming out of what’s happened in the last week, but one of them is going to be that chains of transmission will have become lit from these gatherings,” former CDC head Tom Frieden told NBC News.

Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told ABC News that the pepper spray and tear gas used by police at protests cause people to cough, aerosolizing the virus and causing it to spread. Thousands of people have been arrested, according to the Associated Press, meaning that many people were kept together in an enclosed space at close range for several hours. 

The New York Times spoke with medical historian Dr. Howard Markel, who said the shouting and chanting characteristic to these marches could accelerate the spray of respiratory droplets to other people. Combined with emotions running high, Markel said people may have been too close for medical comfort. 

“People get lost in the moment, and they lose awareness of who is close to them, who’s not, who’s wearing a mask, who’s not,” Markel told the newspaper. 

Many city leaders have advised people who participated in demonstrations to seek out a COVID-19 test, in the interest of their personal health and the health of their communities. 

Sources: New York Times, ABC News, Associated Press, NBC News, Washington Post

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