Health expert concerned protests could fuel surge in coronavirus cases

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NEW YORK — Thousands of protesters gathered at locations across New York to send a clear message demanding justice for George Floyd, many crowding closer than six feet from one another and without any masks.

Dr. Anthony Santella, associate professor of public health at Hofstra University is worried about protestors not wearing masks and not social distancing.

“Some of that certainly goes out the window when you’re talking about making your voices heard,” Dr. Santella told PIX11 News. “ You can’t expect 100% compliance.”

The New York City Department of Health even tweeted out tips for protesters.

The first four may be easier than the last three.

  • Wear a face covering
  • Eye protection
  • Hydrate
  • Use hand sanitizer

Then health officials added: don’t yell, use signs or noisemakers instead; stick to a small group and keep six feet away from other groups.

“You have a right to demonstrate and you have a right to protest. God bless America,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said at his daily briefing. “You don’t have a right to infect other people. You don’t have a right to act in a way that will jeopardize public health.”

In two weeks time, because that’s the incubation period, Dr. Santella is expecting to see an increase in COVID-19 infections because of these protesters in such close quarters without masks.

So it may slow down New York City moving through all four phases of reopening.

“I have always said that from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July is a trial and error period,” Dr. Santella told PIX11 News. “We hope that by the end of the summer we will have all the kinks worked out and schools can reopen.”

But Dr. Santella said masks are still going to be needed whenever you are around people you don’t know until there’s a vaccine.

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