Story at a glance
- Members of the Minnesota National Guard who were deployed in Minneapolis will be tested for the coronavirus.
- One member has already tested positive, several other have reported symptoms.
The Minnesota National Guard has deployed 7,000 personnel to the protests over the death of George Floyd. Now, the branch will test all of its deployed members for the coronavirus after one tested positive and nine others reported symptoms, CNBC reports.
State guard spokesman Scott Hawkes told reporters that Minnesota’s National Guard is currently working on plans to test all members who were deployed in Minneapolis for the virus, although a concrete timeline remains unknown.
“Upon activation, all of our members were screened for health readiness, including for symptoms of COVID-19,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dean Stulz in a statement. “Screening and testing of those activated guard members has been a part of our plan since the earliest days, it is not a response action to having a positive result.”
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Stulz noted that one member did test positive for the virus and has been placed in isolation. It is not known how much interaction has occurred between the infected service member, the public and other guards.
In light of the recent protests, which have rallied people together in close contact during the coronavirus pandemic, public health experts have expressed that this could lead to a second uptick in cases.
Speaking to CNBC, epidemiologist Bob Bednarczyk at Emory University said that in addition to standing in close proximity to others amid shouting and chanting, the tear gas deployed by law enforcement can facilitate the transmission of respiratory particles.
“I am very concerned about the use of tear gas to break up these protests,” he said. “When there is a respiratory disease pandemic occurring, the use of a chemical that causes people to cough violently can lead to more spread of disease.”
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Other experts call for more testing availability for all individuals who were protesting so as to catch infections quickly and reduce the spread.
The Minnesota National Guard said that it practiced U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended protocols while monitoring protests.
“We have made efforts to wear masks and to encourage social distancing where possible, however when you create a line to protect people or buildings you are shoulder to shoulder,” spokesman Scott Hawks said. “These are the required risks that we accept when in uniform to keep the public safe and restore peace and order.”
Currently, Minnesota’s Department of Health reports a cumulative total of 25,508 positive cases. The New York Times reports that the state is currently beginning its reopening after the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Tim Walz (D) expired on May 17.
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