Two of the two biggest stories in America are now converging. There is concern that protests in response to the death of George Floyd may lead to a spike in coronavirus cases. Health professionals in Connecticut and elsewhere are recommending that demonstrators be tested for the virus.
Over the last two weeks, there have been daily protests throughout Connecticut. Some of the larger gatherings had hundreds, if not thousands, of demonstrators standing very close together, chanting for hours on end. All the activity has been taking place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“This virus is as infective as it was in March, so we have to be careful,” said Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer of Hartford HealthCare, who is watching and waiting to see if the virus now spreads even more.
“What is the hospitalization rate looking like? Is it going to go up? Is it going to stay where we are right now?” Kumar said of the metrics he and his colleagues are currently monitoring. “The next week will be critical for us to know and we’ll see how it becomes apparent,” he said.
Gov. Ned Lamont commented on social media in relation to the protests. “Our public health professionals are continuing to monitor test results for possible links to large demonstrations,” he wrote.
Leaders in neighboring states are also watching this closely. Over the weekend, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged anyone who participated in a recent protest to get a coronavirus test.
"Get a test,” Cuomo said Sunday. “We're going to open up 15 sites that are dedicated just to protesters, to get a test so you can get it on an expeditious basis."
In Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta and elsewhere in the U.S., there are similar calls for protesters to get tested immediately.
The sentiment has been echoed locally, as medical professionals alert demonstrators to protect themselves.
“People should get tested,” said Kumar. “People should wear a mask, and as much as possible, maintain a physical distancing.”