Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday said he is “very concerned” that mass protests held over the police-involved death of George Floyd will spark a coronavirus resurgence.
“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 said in an interview on WTOP, a Washington, D.C. radio station. “There certainly is a risk.”
Fauci, the top epidemiologist on the White House coronavirus task force, said that close congregation at the protests, along with the “screaming and demonstrating” that goes along with it, increases the “likelihood that you might have situations where you would force the spread of infection, and that’s really of concern.”
Thousands of demonstrators have gathered in cities across the U.S. to protest Floyd’s death. Floyd died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 10 minutes during an arrest.
The mass gatherings have caused concerns among some public health officials who have for months warned that coronavirus transmits more easily in large groups. The prospect of a spike in coronavirus cases has also caused a dilemma of sorts for politicians who have urged stringent restrictions on public gatherings to slow the spread of the virus, but also support mass demonstrations over Floyd’s death.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, faced criticism Thursday after she led a protest in Highland Park without observing social distancing. Whitmer has been among the most vocal governors supporting social distancing policies and business closures to curtail the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci said he wishes more was being done to caution the protesters about the risks of increased spread of the virus, which has caused nearly 110,000 deaths in the U.S.
“It’s a difficult situation. We have the right to peacefully demonstrate and the demonstrators are exercising that right,” Fauci said in the interview.
“It’s a delicate balance because the reasons for demonstrating are valid and yet the demonstration itself puts one at an additional risk,” he continued.
Fauci also suggested avoiding demonstrations “if you can. If you can’t, make sure you wear a mask.”
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