Story at a glance
- In a call obtained by The Daily Beast, the White House task force ask governors to ensure tests are available to monitor new cases.
- Deborah Birx and Vice President Pence says that team is monitoring increases in cases following nationwide protests.
The White House coronavirus task force spoke with governors Monday on a conference call and discussed concerns over a second wave of coronavirus infections due to the nationwide protests against systemic racism sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
During the call, Deborah Birx, a key member of the task force, as well as Vice President Pence said they are monitoring coronavirus cases, expressing concerns that activities like demonstrating in close quarters and yelling without masks could enable the spread of the virus.
Pence said the threat of new infections are “an issue our team is following and there is concern” when responding to a question from Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo regarding outbreaks resulting from protests.
"We respect the right of every American to exercise their First Amendment rights, but we want to encourage them to do so safely," Pence said.
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Other epidemiologists and public health experts have raised similar concerns in recent days as multiple states are seeing increases in new confirmed cases.
Major cities and urban areas are of particular concern, considering they are the site for the majority of demonstrations, highlighting data pointing to more active community spread in “metro Hispanic neighborhoods.”
Birx also confirmed that approximately 70 testing sites in these metropolitan areas have been destroyed due to the looting that trailed protests.
This further hinders efforts to accurately gauge how many people have the virus and can result in further spread by asymptomatic carriers.
"All of the governors are going to have to scramble now to make sure there's testing available in those urban areas where they lost a CVS or they lost a walk-up or drive-up situation," Birx reportedly said. She also recommended that governors should alert state residents if a protester tests positive for the virus.
She encouraged governors to ensure testing is available and free to monitor the virus as closely as possible.
Still, reopening the economy is a paramount priority for the administration, with Pence reportedly saying that it is “undeniable” that the U.S. is ready to emerge from lockdowns.
To continue mitigating the spread, Birx ultimately recommended that governors ensure law enforcement without masks get tested.
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