WASHINGTON - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield warned Thursday that recent protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death could be a “seeding event” for coronavirus infections and urged participants to get tested.
Testifying before a House Appropriations Committee on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Redfield said individuals protesting in areas that have not yet controlled the outbreak should “highly consider” getting tested.
He noted both Minneapolis and Washington D.C. as two metropolitan areas that are still seeing high levels of transmission of the virus amid large demonstrations with people shouting and chanting — some without masks.
Protesters kneel in front of Lafayette park near the White House to protest the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis, on June 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Redfield said he would like people who participated in protests to get tested for COVID-19 over the next several days.
“I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” Redfield said. “And the way to minimize that is to have each individual to 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.’”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also recently urged protesters to get tested, calling it their “civic duty.”
Even prior to protests over racial inequality that have erupted across the country since Floyd’s death on May 25, there have been incidents of large crowds of people packed together in the past weeks, including over Memorial Day weekend.
Redfield, who is also a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said the agency is concerned its health message “isn’t resonating” with the public, referring to guidance on wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart.
When shown images of crowds of people packed into outdoor bars at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri and at the recent SpaceX launch in Florida, the CDC director shook his head.
Redfield testified that while he sees many wearing masks in his hometown of Baltimore, he has seen “a lot of people without a mask” in Washington, D.C.
All 50 states have begun to reopen in varied ways, but Redfield said “not all states” have met the criteria laid out by the White House for the safe lifting of restrictions. The criteria suggest that states should have a “downward trajectory” of either documented coronavirus cases within a 14-day period or of the percentage of positive tests within a 14-day period.
“We will continue to message as well we can,” he said. “We’re going to encourage people that have the ability to require to wear masks when they are in their environment to continue to do that.”
This story was reported from Cincinnati.