Protesting in a pandemic: local health officials offer guidance

Posted at 3:07 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 09:49:05-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Large groups are gathering across the United States to stand in solidarity following the death of George Floyd, but there are concerns that protests could fuel a second wave of COVID-19.

At a time when many Americans feel they need to come together -- health officials warn it's still important to take precautions against the novel coronavirus.

Corpus Christi Nueces Co. Public Health District Clinical Director Dr. Kim Onufrak said an increase in cases always is a concern following a holiday or large gathering.

"We still do have positive cases out there in the community," she said. "Really large gatherings are not recommended. You just don't know who around you is affected. People are asymptomatic and they have been known to be positive."

Some protesting said the virus of hate may be more dangerous than the actual virus at the center of the pandemic.

Simone Sanders is an executive board member with the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education (TABPHE), and is helping to organize a peaceful gathering this Saturday.

"It's very important to me, as a black leader in our community, that we show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters," she said. "I was even one to say I just can't do it but when I saw there was that need for black leadership, I felt that it outweighed me staying at home."

At this point, it's too early to know if the protests could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases, but if you do go out to participate, local health officials and event organizers urge individuals to wear masks.

"If you are gong to go to a protest, please wear a mask," Onufrak said. "I was very happy to see that a lot of the people at the protest this weekend at City Hall were wearing masks."

Health officials also are encouraging individuals to avoid touching their faces and keep 6 feet of social distance.

"If you're high risk I would recommend protesting from home," Onufrak said. "If you are over 65, if you have comorbidities, if you have diabetes, high blood pressure -- even if you're a smoker -- those all decrease your immunity. I definitely would ask you to stay home. But I know this is an important social topic, so if you feel like you have to go out, please try to protect yourself."

Protest organizers from this past weekend had extra masks and hand sanitizer available on-site.

TABPHE plans to take measures at its gathering this weekend to keep everyone safe.