Massive protests in US raise fears of new virus outbreaks

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The mayor of Atlanta, one of dozens of United States (US) cities hit by massive protests in recent days, has a message for demonstrators: “If you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a COVID test this week.”

As emergency orders are lifted and beaches and businesses reopen, add protests to the list of concerns about a possible second wave of coronavirus outbreaks. It’s also an issue from Paris to Hong Kong, where anti-government protesters accuse police of using social distancing rules to break up their rallies.

Health experts fear that silent carriers of the virus who have no symptoms could unwittingly infect others at gatherings with people packed cheek to jowl and cheering and jeering, many without masks.

“Whether they’re fired up or not that doesn’t prevent them from getting the virus,” said Chairman of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California, Davis Bradley Pollock.

One Atlanta protester said she has no choice following the death last Monday of George Floyd, a black man, after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed a knee into his neck.

“It’s not OK that in the middle of a pandemic we have to be out here risking our lives,” Spence Ingram, a black woman, said after marching with other protesters to the state Capitol in Atlanta on Friday. “But I have to protest for my life and fight for my life all the time.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, in her warning on Saturday evening, said “there is still a pandemic in America that’s killing black and brown people at higher numbers.”

After another night of unrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said that many protesters wearing masks were simply trying to hide their identities and “cause confusion and take advantage of this situation.”

Secret Service Police officers form a block on Pennsylvania Avenue NW to prevent protesters from reaching the White House during a rally in Washington. Demonstrations took place nationwide in protest of the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis. PHOTO: AP