Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people out of their homes and onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases.
While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus.
More than 100,000 Americans have already died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. People of color have been particularly hard hit, with rates of hospitalizations and deaths among black Americans far exceeding those of whites.
The protests in dozens of cities have been spurred most recently by the death last week of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis. But the unrest and outrage spilling out into the streets from one city to the next also reflects the dual, cumulative tensions arising from decades of killings by police and the sudden losses of family and friends from the virus.
“Tear gas & pepper spray, which police have used to disperse crowds, increase respiratory secretions from the eyes nose & mouth further enhancing transmission. Police efforts to move crowds can result in corralling people closer together into tight spaces”https://t.co/nKEyXdqHPM
— Amy Coopes (@coopesdetat) June 1, 2020