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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 CuomoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Broadway to fully reopen in September Mets, Yankees to open vaccination sites to fans before games 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 PocanProgressives divided over efforts to repeal SALT cap Left feels empowered after Biden backtracks on refugees NIH reverses Trump administration's ban on fetal tissue research MORE (D-Wis.) asked Redfield if he had recommended to President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report 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.”