Massive protests raise concern about a resurgence in coronavirus cases

Story by Janice Park and Lenise Diaz

Illustration by Alicia Zhang
Staff Illustrator

The coronavirus outbreak temporarily dropped to second spot in media coverage this week because of the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted across all 50 states after a policeman killed George Floyd on Monday, May 25.

Health officials in Los Angeles County have expressed fear that the crowded police brutality protests could serve as “super spreader” events that lead to a spike in coronavirus cases. However, a possible resurgence of the virus will not be clearly visible in the county health department’s data for several weeks due to the 14-day incubation period when those infected may not show symptoms. 

“We urge everyone, including the people across our community who are engaging in protest, to please care for each other by practicing physical distancing as much as possible and wearing a cloth face covering when around other people,” L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. “These actions can save lives.”

Black Lives Matter protests reached South Pasadena this week, with dozens of residents congregating at the intersection of Fair Oaks and Mission. SPHS alumnus and local protest organizer London Lang emphasized the importance of social distancing by demarcating six feet distance with duct tape on the ground. As of Saturday, June 6, South Pasadena had 134 confirmed coronavirus cases and 20 deaths, a seven percent increase in cases from last week.

The protests coincide with many businesses reopening, after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti approved all retailers to provide in-person shopping last week. However, the economic revival was dampened by a series of countywide curfews last weekend aimed to curb the looting and violence intermixed with protests occurring in parts of L.A. County. 

Dine-in restaurants, salons, and barbershops will restart business once the county deems it is safe to move into phase three of its five stage reopening process. The next step also allows schools, colleges, movie theatres, and bars to reopen. Still, on Tuesday, June 2 alone, L.A. County announced 60 new deaths and 1,202 coronavirus cases which brings the countywide total up to 62,338 cases and 2,620 deaths.

Garcetti temporarily closed coronavirus testing sites on Saturday, May 30 due to the large protests against police brutality, but all 36 locations were reopened on Friday, June 5. All L.A. County residents can receive free coronavirus testing, even if they are not presenting symptoms

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the U.S. had 1,920,904 confirmed coronavirus cases and 109,901 deaths as of Sunday, June 7. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in mid-May that he was taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, to prevent contracting the coronavirus. However, a study published Wednesday, June 3 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that hydroxychloroquine did not protect against the virus. 

Police brutality protests continue across the nation to raise awareness of racism within law enforcement at the same time that the coronavirus is disproportionately killing people of color, who often lack access to health care. Governments at all levels are being forced to grapple with the intersection of these public health crises while facing increasing public pressure for action.

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