Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious diseases expert, on Friday urged caution for those attending the massive George Floyd protests across the country as the coronavirus continues to present a threat to public health.
Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that being in such large crowds, chanting, and the chaos that has come out from some of the demonstrations are setting up dangerous conditions to spread COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“It’s a perfect set-up for further spread of the virus in terms of creating some blips that could turn into some surges,” he told WTOP. “There certainly is a risk.”
National unrest sparked after the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have renewed the painful debate of racial tensions and police brutality in the U.S.
Earlier this week, a group of 1,288 “public-health officials, infectious disease professions, and community stakeholders” published an open letter endorsing the widespread protests as “vital to the national public health.”
“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.”
In his interview, Dr. Fauci endorsed peaceful protests, but he urged demonstrators to keep their masks on at all times.
“It’s important to exercise your constitutional right to be able to demonstrate. But it’s a delicate balance because the reasons for demonstrating are valid, but the demonstration puts one at additional risk,” he said.
As of Friday morning, there were 1,874,411 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 108,238 deaths in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. population is more than 300 million.