Health officials expect spike in COVID-19 cases to follow protests

Protesters seen without masks in Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County Health officials expect a spike in COVID-19 cases as a result of protests and vigils following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis a week ago.

Tucson was marred by three days of protests and altercations followed by a peaceful vigil on Monday, June 1, attended by hundreds of people.

“That in itself would lead us to believe there would be a spike,” said Pima County Health Director Theresa Cullen. “How big it would be really depends on what kind of infection rate there was in that group of people.”

Cullen believes it will take two to 14 days to manifest itself, which is generally the incubation period for the coronavirus.

The spike, if it comes, may be mitigated by several factors she believes.

“The vast majority of people had masks on,” she said. “And a ton of people were trying to social distance.”

Still, looking at the video of the event, there were several people who did not have masks on and it appeared very difficult for the participants to social distance in a small space.

“I don’t think anybody figured out right now how to respond to the people who are congregating and protesting,” she said.

In other words, the scientist will have to wait and see if the current protest movement has an affect on the spread of the virus.

“We could predict there’s been multiple times in the last four days that there’s been a congregation of multiple people who are not socially distancing and physically isolating,” she said.

Many of those people seem to have forgotten that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, which is a concern to the scientists who are watching the events unfold.

“We would like to remind people that we are in a pandemic,” Cullen said. “The more they can take to protect themselves, their family, their neighbors and their community, the better it will be for all of us.”

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