CDC Director Warns Nationwide Protests Could Be Virus ‘Seeding Event’

June 4, 2020 Updated: June 4, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said Thursday that he’s “very concerned” the agency’s public health message on the CCP virus isn’t being adhered to by the public as cases rise across the country.

Redfield told the House Appropriations Committee that he is seeing “a lot of people” not wearing masks in Washington, where he works. He said many don’t wear masks in his hometown of Baltimore.

What’s more, he expressed concern that the protests over the death of George Floyd could trigger a rise in the number of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases. He was asked about the protests by House committee members on several occasions.

“I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” Redfield told Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), adding that protesters should get tested to prevent spreading the disease. “And the way to minimize that is to have each individual to recognize it is an advantage of them to protect their loved ones, to [say] ‘hey, I was out, I need to go get tested,'” he said.

Patient from Cobble Hill Health Center nursing home
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) wheel a man out of the Cobble Hill Health Center nursing home during an ongoing outbreak of the CCP virus in the Brooklyn borough of New York on April 17, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The CDC is “very concerned that our public health message isn’t resonating” amid the protests, Redfield told members of the panel.

The agency director was asked by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) if protesters being cleared by police using tear gas, smoke canisters, and pepper balls could spread the virus because protesters would start coughing and taking off their masks.

“I think you raise an important point,” Redfield said, adding, “I’ll pass on this comment to the next task force meeting.”

Cases of the virus, which originated in mainland China last year, have slowed down in some hotspots such as New York. But the United States is still seeing about 20,000 cases per day.

“We will continue to message as well we can,” said Redfield, a member of the White House’s virus task force. “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.”

So far, more than 107,000 people and have died from the virus in the United States, and more than 1.7 million have tested positive, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Health officials have warned that the winter and fall seasons might prove to be difficult for the United States as cases of virus are predicted to surge in tandem with influenza.