Fauci underscores concerns about protests spreading coronavirus

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciCDC to issue more guidance on school openings amid Trump criticism The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases The Hill's 12:30 Report- Presented by Facebook - Trump threatens schools' funding over reopening MORE early Wednesday expressed concern that recent mass protests against police brutality and racism would spread the novel coronavirus because of a lack of social distancing.

Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert and member of the White House coronavirus task force, told ABC's “Good Morning America” he isn’t surprised that members of the Washington, D.C., National Guard who mobilized in response to the protests had tested positive, but he called the development “disturbing.”

“The issue of physical separation is important. Masks can help, but it’s masks plus physical separation, and when you get congregations like we saw with the demonstrations, like we have said myself and other health officials that’s taking a risk,” Fauci said. “Unfortunately, what we’re seeing now is just an example of the kinds of things we were concerned about.”

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Fauci said he wouldn’t be surprised if some protesters in D.C. subsequently contracted the novel coronavirus and noted that many of them came from other areas and will return to their home state or city.

“It’s the kind of things we were concerned about and unfortunately we’re seeing it come true right now,” Fauci said.

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Protests have broken out in cities including Minneapolis, New York and D.C. in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. Over the weekend, the nation’s capital witnessed its largest demonstration, with thousands marching downtown to protest police violence and racism. Many protesters were seen wearing masks, but in some cases they were tightly packed together, without observing the recommended six feet of physical distancing during the pandemic.

Health experts have expressed concerns that the demonstrations could help spread the virus, which has infected nearly 2 million Americans as of Wednesday morning. Evidence of the protests contributing to a spike in cases wouldn’t be seen until roughly two weeks from the beginning of the protests, however.

Meanwhile, states across the country have embarked on plans to loosen restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and allow businesses to reopen. Some states like Texas and Arizona have seen spikes in cases and hospitalizations as they reopen, underscoring the risks of reopening.

Fauci emphasized Wednesday that it was important for Americans to continue to wear masks, keep distance from others, frequently wash their hands and avoid congregations “in large numbers” as states reopen.

“You still have to practice a degree of caution and carefully go through the process of trying to normalize,” Fauci said.

“We know everyone wants to approach normality and get things back to normal including the economy, but that doesn’t mean that all bets are off, and that’s the reason why we say be careful and do it prudently,” he continued.