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Protesting & COVID-19; Should we expect a spike in cases?

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Protests resulting from the death of a 46-year-old unarmed black man at the hands of police continue for the third straight week.

As Americans march in the name of George Floyd, some concern has arisen over the gathering of thousands, as the coronavirus continues to be a threat.

North Dakota’s Chief Health Strategist says even a global pandemic should not overshadow your constitutional right to assemble and speak freely.

“I’m torn. On the one hand, I strongly support the importance of people to exercise their constitutional rights. But I’m troubled as a physician if it puts them or their neighbors or others at risk,” Strategist Dr. Joshua Wynne elaborated.

The Department of Health’s Contact Tracing Facilitator says it’s going to be practically impossible to trace a new positive COVID-19 case back to someone at a protest or to warn all of those people who the positive person came into contact with.

“If they know the people they were around, great. If they don’t, if they were just in a huge congregate setting, there’s no way for us to know, or for them to know for that matter, who they’ve infected,” shared the Facilitator, Vern Dosch.

He recommends everyone who’s been at a protest go ahead and get tested.

“If I would be there, I would, absolutely,” Dosch added.

Dr. Wynne says there’s no way people are maintaining a social distance of at least six feet or more, so he advises that masks would be a smart move for protestors.

He says on a positive note, at least these gatherings are happening outside where the risk of spread is lower.

“On the other hand, for people who might be shouting and so forth, that tends to have the droplets move further and so forth. So, you know, if you want to say something, maybe using a microphone is better than just yelling, from a public health standpoint,” Dr. Wynne explained.

In the end, he says he’s not sure whether or not this could cause a second wave of high case numbers in North Dakota. He says in a week to four, we’ll know more.

“We’ll do the best we can, and that’s not to say that people who feel strongly about things should keep their mouths shut. No, that’s not what I’m suggesting. But you asked if I’m concerned, and the answer is yes,” Dr. Wynne summarized.

The Department of Health has set up a testing site at the Fargodome for the next three weeks, where anyone can be tested for free.

Dosch says the department is working on doing this in more concentrated areas across the state too.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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