In a little over a week, Americans have gone from taking their first hesitant steps outside again to marching in tightly-packed crowds in cities all over the country.
Any uncertainty about venturing out during a CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic has been seemingly cast aside as thousands go out to protest against police brutality following the death of George Floyd, who was pinned under an officer’s knee in Minneapolis.
But despite the sudden shift after weeks of social distancing, COVID-19 is still spreading. So far this week, 4,430 people have been reported dead since Sunday. Of those, 1,036 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours.
And by late Thursday, the virus had killed more than 108,000 people in the United States and infected at least 1.8 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“Based on the way the disease spreads, there is every reason to expect that we will see new clusters and potentially new outbreaks moving forward,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams warned this week.
The United States will likely not see the effects of the protests on infection rates and hospitalizations until three to four weeks later, CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta said.
He noted factors such as protests taking place outside could mean a lower risk for transmission of the virus.
Protests Could Be Virus ‘Seeding Event’
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 Floyd could trigger a rise in the number of CCP 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.
The CDC is “very concerned that our public health message isn’t resonating” amid the protests, Redfield told members of the panel.
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.”
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.
The Virus Is Not Mutating, but It’s Still Dangerous
New discoveries about the CCP virus are still emerging months later. Scientists studying the virus discovered that it’s not mutating in a way they’d feared early on. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous, experts said this week.
So far, evidence does not show it’s getting worse or more transmittable. But complacency by people and governments could increase its spread, said Maria Van Kerkhove, a disease epidemiologist at the World Health Organization.
“Scientists are looking to see, are there changes in the virus? And as it is a coronavirus … there are normal changes in this virus that one would expect over time,” she said. “None of these changes so far indicate that the virus itself is changing in terms of its ability to transmit or to cause more severe disease.”
But she said the presence of the virus over time may lead some people to lower their guards.
“They may become lax in the measures needed to control the spread of the virus, such as social distancing,” she said. “It’s very difficult to keep up all of these measures and we must remain strong and vigilant.”
CNN Wire and reporters Jack Phillips, Lorenz Duchamps contributed to this report.