Ask Dr. Nandi: Mass protests could lead to another wave of coronavirus infections

Posted at 5:57 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 19:38:23-04

(WXYZ) — As protests continue across the nation over the death of George Floyd, health experts warn that these mass gatherings could lead to an uptick in coronavirus infections.

According to the US Surgeon General, we can expect new outbreaks linked to the nationwide protests. And there are a couple of reasons as to why.

First of all, not all the demonstrators are wearing masks or keeping 6 feet apart. And anyone who was, unfortunately, tear-gassed or had pepper spray used on them, well these can cause coughing. And if you’re infected with the virus, your cough can spew tiny aerosol particles containing the virus out into the air. The same goes for a person who is shouting or chanting.

Not only might you be spreading the virus, but it’s possible you’re inhaling the virus as you take those deep breaths to raise your voice. Also, people are being arrested. They’re sitting in cars close to each other and some are spending time in crowded jails. All of these situations give the virus ample opportunity to find new hosts.

I do recommend that if you were at one of these protests, to get tested. Even if you feel fine. Because the CDC says that up to a third of infected people are asymptomatic - so they have no symptoms. And if you do test positive and know you have the virus, then you can self-quarantine. And that will help to keep our numbers down.

I can really understand the frustration. When I was about 12-years-old, my dad and I nearly lost our lives in Ohio as a man pulled out a shotgun and almost killed us and told us that we didn’t belong here in America. I’ll never forget that feeling of helplessness that my father and I were judged solely on the color of our skin.

So I do support the efforts of folks who are out there, trying to solve this societal problem of oppression. But I am also a physician. And I want to keep people alive. So if you’re going to protest, here’s my advice:

  • Wear a face mask
  • Wear face shields or glasses to protect your eyes
  • Please, try not to shout or chant - instead bring noisemakers or record a voice message to play on your phone
  • Keep your hands clean with hand sanitizer
  • And do your best with social distancing, keep 6 ft away from others

Now I know this is a very painful time. But it’s also very important that all of us are treated with fairness and respect.

As for the virus, it is not treating everyone the same when it comes to who it kills. It is disproportionately affecting communities of color. So please don’t let anger get in the way of making safe choices when it comes to your health, your loved one’s health and those who you are rallying around at these demonstrations.

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