CDC Director: Widespread Protests Could Be COVID-19 'Seeding Event'

CDC Director: Widespread Protests Could Be COVID-19 'Seeding Event'
A recent CDC forecast predicts a decline in weekly coronavirus virus deaths, but that could change if the coronavirus spreads among protesters.

"I'll see everybody tomorrow. Please, let's go home safe, OK?" said a police officer to demonstrators.

People who have protested within the last two weeks are advised to get tested for COVID-19.

"I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event," Dr. Robert Redfield said while testifying in front of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the federal government's coronavirus response.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the risk of getting infected is more likely in larger cities that haven't controlled outbreaks.

"Minneapolis happens to be one that is still having significant transmission. D.C. is another one. We really want those individuals to highly consider being evaluated," Redfield said.

Although some protesters wear masks, there's minimal social distancing within the crowds. And tear gas, used occasionally by law enforcement against protesters in several cities, can make people cough — increasing the chance of spreading the virus.

"We have advocated strongly the ability to have face coverings and masks available to protesters so that they can at least have those coverings," Redfield told lawmakers. 

The CDC published a forecast Thursday that predicts between 118,000 and 143,000 deaths in the U.S. by June 27. The data projects a decline in weekly coronavirus deaths, but that could change if the coronavirus roams among protesters.

State officials have expressed concern the virus could spread rapidly during protests, prompted by the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

"If you were at a protest, go get a test, please. The protesters have a civic duty here also. Be responsible. Get a test. Go to the website, find out the testing site nearest you. We have 700 in this state. You can get a test. Get a test," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday at a press briefing.

City leaders are urging people who protest to consider self-isolating for 14 days as a precaution.

"The threat of COVID-19 is very much still with us, and we must maintain all of the public health guidance that got us to this point. And I know we see a lot of people gathering in the streets all around the city — some in peaceful protest, others in other forms," said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. "But whether you're out there for legitimate and righteous reasons or for some other, you have put yourself at risk."

Contains footage from CNN.