Thousands of people have gathered for over a week of protests in D.C. and across the country in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Now a top public health official is weighing in on the risks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, called it a “delicate balance.”
“The reasons for demonstrating are valid, yet the demonstration itself puts one at an additional risk,” Fauci said Friday in an interview with WTOP.
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Fauci said not only is it a risk to have protesters gathered in proximity to one another, the nature of demonstrations presents a health risk because people chant and yell with their mouths uncovered.
There have also been instances of protesters coughing on each other after police deployed irritants, such as tear gas or pepper spray.
“I get very concerned, as do my colleagues in public health, when they see these kinds of crowds,” Fauci said. “There certainly is a risk. I can say that with confidence.”
Compounding the risk, especially in the D.C. area, is the fact that the protests are happening in places where the coronavirus was spreading at a significant rate before the mass protests started.
“It’s a perfect setup for further spread of the virus in the sense of creating these blips which might turn into some surges,” Fauci said.
If Fauci had one piece of advice for someone who plans to go out and protest, it would be to wear a mask and keep it on the entire time.
“I’ve seen on TV, as the demonstrations heat up, people might take their masks off,” he said. “You might have situations where you would foster the spread of infection and that’s really of concern.”