CDC director warns Floyd protests could be 'seeding event' for coronavirus

CDC director warns Floyd protests could be 'seeding event' for coronavirus
© Greg Nash

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield warned Thursday that recent protests could be a “seeding event” that spreads the coronavirus and urged demonstrators to get tested.

“We really want those individuals to highly consider being evaluated and get tested, and obviously go from there, because I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” Redfield said at a House Appropriations Committee hearing.

“The way to minimize that is to have each individual recognize it's to the advantage of them to protect their loved ones to [say], ‘Hey, I was out. I need to go get tested,’” Redfield added.

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After weeks of orders to stay home and keep apart from others, thousands of people are gathering in close proximity at protests across the country over police brutality and the treatment of African Americans following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

Public health experts have said the cause is an important one, but many have also expressed concern about the spread of the coronavirus, though the extent of any spikes are not yet clear. Certain factors, like the protests being held outside and some demonstrators wearing masks, could help mitigate the spread.

Redfield noted that cities like Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.  two of the main flash points in the nationwide protests are still seeing high levels of transmission of the coronavirus.

New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoDeSantis sued for not having ASL interpreter at coronavirus briefings New York adds four new states to quarantine requirement list Quarantines for out-of-state visitors exceeds governors' emergency authority MORE (D) on Thursday also encouraged protesters to get tested. The state has been the hardest hit by the pandemic in the U.S., and New York City has seen several days and nights of demonstrations.

Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary MORE (D-Wis.) asked Redfield if he had recommended to President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pitches Goya Foods products on Twitter Sessions defends recusal: 'I leave elected office with my integrity intact' Former White House physician Ronny Jackson wins Texas runoff MORE, the military or police not to use tear gas or similar chemicals against protesters because it could cause them to cough and thereby further spread coronavirus.

Redfield called that an “important point” before saying he was recommending that protesters also wear masks to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Pressed on whether he would make a recommendation against tear gas, Redfield said, “I'll pass on this comment to the next task force meeting, yes.”