Health experts warn of coronavirus spike after Floyd demonstrations as Cuomo tells protesters: ‘Assume you are infected’ – The Sun

MASS protests against police brutality have set off an extraordinary chain of events across the country but could exacerbate the coronavirus spread as demonstrators have been warned: "Assume you were infected".

At least 75 cities across the US have seen widespread protests and social unrest over systemic racism sinceGeorge Floyd's police custody death in Minneapolis on May 25.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed concern that "protesters themselves could wind up causing a spike” and said they "have a civic duty" to get a test.

"Tell people that you may have been exposed to COVID,'  he said at his daily press conference on Thursday.

"If you were at one of those protests, I would, out of an abundance of caution, assume that you were infected."

William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, told The US Sun that he expected a “burst of transmissions” amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of the demonstrations sparked by the killing of Mr Floyd.

According to Dr Schaffner, that is likely to come at further cost with the highly contagious disease transmitted most efficiently in crowds.

“There is no doubt the coronavirus enjoys people getting together closely for prolonged periods of time who are chanting and yelling,” he said.

“That’s an environment where it can spread.

“Chanting and yelling means inhaling more air and breathing more deeply, and if someone is shedding the virus it’s more likely you’ll get an infectious dose if you’re next to them.

“I don’t think there’s a single public health person that would be excited about these demonstrations from the point of view of COVID-19 transmission, but the reasons are another matter.”

Researchers have found that just a few contagious people can infect hundreds of others around them. Tear gas and pepper spray, which police have used to disperse crowds, cause people to cough, and secrete fluids from the eyes, nose and mouth, increasing the possibility of transmission.

According to Dr Schaffner, the true impact of the protests on the rate of coronavirus infections will be difficult to distinguish from the upward trend linked to communities reopening “and returning to conventional activities” after weeks of stay-at-home orders. He warned that anyone attending the rallies “shouldn’t then go and visit grandma” in following weeks.

“We all know these are mostly younger people who can be without symptoms so we can’t pick out who is infected so they might transmit virus,” he said.

“Many people at the demonstrations are understandably people of color and it’s people of color, Hispanic and Latin communities who have suffered most.

“Bringing COVID home to neighbors is not what you want to do.”

He said wearing a face mask, complying with social distancing measures, and practicing good hygiene were ways to reduce the risk in public but warned none of them guaranteed immunity from the virus.

“Most people who contract COVID usually show symptoms within a week or eight or nine days,” he said.

“It’s generally thought that two weeks is the outer limits of this incubation period.”

Maimuna Majumder, a computational epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said there was “little doubt that these protests will translate into increased risk of transmission for COVID-19”.

But according to her, it’s justifiable.

“I personally believe that these particular protests—which demand justice for black and brown bodies that have been brutalized by the police—are a necessary action,” she told The Atlantic.

“Structural racism has been a public-health crisis for much longer than the pandemic has.”

Earlier, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also warned that the protests could become “super-spreader events” after demonstrations led to the closing of virus testing sites on Saturday.

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan said he expected the state would see a spike in cases, while Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, advised protesters “to go get a Covid test this week”.

Minneapolis' mayor Jacob Frey described the situation as being "two crises that are sandwiched on top of one another".

More than 1.8 million coronavirus cases have been reported in the US, including at least 106,000 fatalities.

Protests continued in major US cities overnight. They largely remained peaceful but there were several reports of tense confrontations and a few assaults, including violent attacks on police and protesters.

Dozens of cities have imposed curfews in recent days amid widespread looting.

More than 10,000 people have been arrested nationwide in the unrest that followed Mr Floyd’s death, according to an Associated Press tally.

It has marked the most turbulent moment of societal upheaval in the US since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

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