United Kingdom

CDC director says George Floyd protestors should get tested for coronavirus

Protestors should consider getting themselves tested for the novel coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended.

Director Dr Robert Redfield made the suggestion when he appeared at a hearing for the House Committee on Appropriations

'I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,' Redfield told Rep Lois Frankel (D-Florida).

To prevent spreading the virus, Redfield recommended that people who attend protests tell their loved ones that they are planning to do and get tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, within three to seven days of having been out in public.

Redfield, during an exchange with Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) said he feared that tear gas and pepper spray used by police could cause coughing and, in turn, spread the virus. 

'Definitely, coughing can spread respiratory viruses, including COVID-19,' the CDC director said.

Pocan asked Redfield if the federal health agency had advised law enforcement against using tear gas as the pandemic rages on.

Redfield said he'd pass the comment along at the next meeting of the White House coronavirus task force but that h has strongly advocated the protestors wear masks. 

'I think you raised an important point we have advocated strongly - the ability to have face coverings and masks available to protesters, so that they can at least have those coverings,' he said. 

In a recent interview with DailyMail.com, Dr William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said there are several reasons one may become infected at a protest.

There's the fact that demonstrations are large congregant events - which are currently discouraged - a lack of social distancing and people not wearing masks.

However, he adds that a lot of shouting is also likely to increase the risk of virus spread.

'There is a lot of shouting and running around, which is exertional, which will make people breathe more deeply and exhale more,' Schaffner said.

This means more potentially infected droplets in the air and a greater chance of a non-infected person breathing them in and falling ill.

Additionally, many people attending these protests are people of color, minorities who have been disproportionately affected by COVID.

'That puts those populations at greater risk and those people can bring the virus home with them,' Schaffner said. 

'There's no doubt that we are concerned that this may contribute to spikes of increased infections here and there because it comes at the time when we are all 'opening our society' as we are going out. 

Schaffner says 'if one wishes to demonstrate', remember to socially distance from others, always wear a mask covering the nose and mouth and bring hand sanitizer. 

He also advises to go home during the evening. 

'Because it would appear that all the rambunctiousness occurs once it gets dark and obviously with all the running around and congregating then, that's when the risk increases,' he added. 

It comes as more than 1,000 health professionals rote an open letter asking that protests around the US not be shut down under due to supposed coronavirus health concerns.  

 'We created the letter in response to emerging narratives that seemed to malign demonstrations as risky for the public health because of COVIS-19,' the authors wrote.

'Instead, we wanted to present a narrative that prioritizes opposition to racism as vital to the public health, including the epidemic response. 

'We believe that the way forward is not to suppress protests in the name of public health but to respond to protesters demands in the name of public health, thereby addressing multiple public health crises.'

The letter gave guidelines on how both protestors and law enforcement could stay safe, including wearing masks, socially distancing and asking that tear gas npt be used, such as wearing masks, advocating to not hold people who are arrested in close proximity and opposing the use of tear gas for health reasons.

'Staying at home, social distancing, and public masking are effective at minimizing the spread of COVID-19,' they wrote.

'To the extent possible, we support the application of these public health best practices during demonstrations that call attention to the pervasive lethal force of white supremacy,' the letter says.'

There has been a recent spike in infections in several states, but health experts say this is likely from lack of social distancing at events over Memorial Day Weekend and because symptoms can up to 14 days to emerge. 

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