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June 03, 2020

Philly health department recommends protesters get tested for COVID-19

Amid mass demonstrations, U.S. Surgeon General fears new clusters of coronavirus

Illness COVID-19
Philly Protests COVID-19 Chris Naris/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia health officials are recommending people who participate in demonstrations demanding justice for George Floyd get tested for the coronavirus.

Philadelphia health officials are advising residents who have participated in protests during the last week to pay attention to possible COVID-19 symptoms and arrange to get tested in the near future. 

The Department of Public Health issued guidelines for protesters to follow over the next two weeks in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Thousands of residents and police officers have gathered in large crowds since Saturday to demand justice for George Floyd, whose death in the custody of Minneapolis police sparked mass demonstrations across the United States.

Health officials are urging people who attended protests to take the following steps:

• Monitor for symptoms like new-onset fever, cough or shortness of breath for fourteen days.

• Try to stay away from other people for fourteen days; if you can’t stay at home, be sure to wear a mask properly and try to stay at least six feet from others.

• Get tested for COVID-19 seven days after having been in a crowd; those seeking testing do NOT need to identify that they were at a protest but instead should say they were near someone who may have had COVID-19.

Protests have continued in Philadelphia as the city prepares to enter the yellow phase of Pennsylvania's COVID-19 reopening plan on Friday. In response to civil unrest, city officials have indicated that this transition may be pushed back. Key health metrics related to the virus also will be factored into that decision.

City-run COVID-19 testing centers recently have been closed as a result of the demonstrations, though other sites remain open to schedule appointments. It's not yet clear whether the protest activity has suppressed testing or lab reporting over the past week.

Philadelphia reported 252 additional COVID-19 cases on Monday and 153 on Tuesday, bringing the city's total to 23,034.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also urged protesters to wear a face covering and get tested for COVID-19, citing the lack of social distancing taking place at demonstrations.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams has warned that coronavirus outbreaks are a likely consequence of mass demonstrations, though some health experts believe the risk of transmission is somewhat mitigated by being outdoors.

"Based on the way the disease spreads, there is every reason to expect that we will see new clusters and potentially new outbreaks moving forward," said Adams, who also empathized with the cause behind the protests. 

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