Government leaders and health officials have expressed their concern that coronavirus could rapidly spread during protests over the death of George Floyd.
Floyd died after since-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
People across the country have taken to the streets to vent their frustrations over the seeming lack of value for the lives of black Americans. It was the same week the nation crossed the 100,000 death count from coronavirus.
“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,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said during CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
Cases rising in some areas
Sunday alone saw an increase of almost 20,000 cases nationwide, according to the CNN count compiled with data from John’s Hopkins.
In Washington DC, the health department on Monday reported a new peak in cases meaning a delay to moving from phase one of the District’s reopening program to a less restrictive phase.
In California, cases jumped 11% in days, from 98,980 reported Wednesday to 110,583 cases Sunday, according to the health department’s data.
In the past week, 18 states had an increase of cases of at least 10%; cases decreased in 21 states, and 11 were holding steady, according to a CNN analysis of the seven-day average of new cases between Memorial Day and Sunday.
As of Monday evening, at least 1,809,109 Americans have contracted the virus and 105,099 have died.
Spike in cases expected
With large groups of people out in hoards close together during the protests, Minnesota Governor Walz said he expects a sharp increase in cases of Covid-19 in his state
“I am deeply concerned about a super-spreader type of incident,” Walz said. “We’re going to see a spike in Covid-19. It’s inevitable.”
Minnesota has been “seeing an uptick in cases to begin with. Even before these protests started, we saw rising hospitalizations in that state,” Gottlieb said.
Officials in New York shared the governor’s worry about a potential for rise in coronavirus among protesters.
“I would still wish that everyone would realize that when people gather it’s inherently dangerous in the context of this pandemic, and I’m going to keep urging people not to use that approach and if they do they focus on social distancing and wearing face coverings,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday.
The mayor said he recognized the need to demonstrate following the death of Floyd but “It’s a very, very complicated reality.”
“You cannot see overt racism, you cannot see overt racist murder and not feel something profoundly deep, so I understand that,” de Blasio added. “But the last thing we would want to see is members of our community harmed because the virus spread in one of these settings.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that while people have the right to protest, even during a pandemic, they also have a duty to protect the health of themselves and others.
“You have a right to demonstrate you have a right to protest, God Bless America,” Cuomo said at a Saturday press conference. “You don’t have a right to infect other people, you don’t have a right to act in a way that’s going to jeopardize public health.”
“Demonstrate with a mask on,” he said nodding to its effectiveness. “You’re wrong not to wear a mask, I think you’re disrespectful, I think you’re putting other people’s lives at risk needlessly.”
Cuomo also noted how the coronavirus has brought long standing health disparities for the African American community to light once again.
“The coronavirus crisis has created a depth of pain that still has not been accounted for. So many New Yorkers have lost someone but that is particularly true in communities of color and particularly true in the African American community,” Cuomo said. “That loss is being felt so deeply because every knows it’s not based on equality … communities of color lost so much more.”
Health experts have also spoken out about the need for masks and other protective measures in light of racial disparities in the data showing minorities have an increased risk of serious complications from the virus.
“We know that blacks are two to four times more likely to die from Covid-19 compared to whites,” Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and researcher at Brown University, told CNN’s John King. “And of course, other communities, like Native Americans and Hispanics, are disproportionately affected, as well.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also said she’s worried about the impact the virus is having on the community during the protests. She told CNN she’s been so busy with ongoing unrest in her city that she neglected to look at infection data for days.
“Last night I realized I hadn’t looked at our coronavirus numbers in two days,” Lance Bottoms told CNN’s Jake Tapper during State of the Union. “That’s frightening because it’s a pandemic and people of color are getting hit harder.”
“I am extremely concerned when we’re seeing mass gatherings. We know what’s happening in our community with this virus,” the mayor explained.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan shared a similar sentiment saying the priority has been to keep people safe during the demonstrations but the focus has to also include the months long fight against the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking to Jake Tapper on State of the Union, Hogan said he, too, is concerned about the coronavirus amidst the fallout from the death of Floyd.
“There’s no questions that when you put hundreds or thousands of people together in close proximity when we’ve got this virus all over the streets is not healthy,” Hogan said. “Two weeks from now across America we’re going to find out whether or not this gives us a spike and drives the numbers back up.”
“Most states had rules about no crowds of 10 or more and now we’re seeing thousands of people jammed in together in close proximity,” Hogan added.
CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia, Maggie Fox, Aaron Pellish and Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.