Experts Fear Minneapolis Protests Will Trigger Spike In Coronavirus Cases

 forbes.com  05/29/2020 16:08:00 

Minnesota reported a single-day record of 35 deaths on Thursday from Covid-19, as health officials warned that recent mass protests could exacerbate the spread of the virus, with the potential to disproportionately impact minorities.

Protesters Break Into Ohio Statehouse In Columbus As Nationwide Backlash Erupts After George Floyd Killing

COLUMBUS, OH - MAY 28: Protesters demonstrated in Downtown Columbus near the statehouse in ... [+] solidarity with nation wide protests against the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. What started as a peaceful demonstration near the Ohio Statehouse in solidarity with other protests throughout the country against the killing of Minneapolis, Minnesota resident George Floyd, turned into a riot after police and protesters clashed on May 28, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio. As protesters dispersed, looters began smashing windows in buildings including the Ohio Statehouse and local retail on Broad Street in Downtown Columbus. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

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KEY FACTS

Thursday marked the third consecutive day of protesting in Minneapolis in response to the death of George Floyd.

At a press briefing on Thursday, State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said she understands the anger and pain of protesters, but asserted that mass gatherings significantly increases potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Per the Covid Exit Strategy website, Minnesota is among 20 states listed as "trending poorly" due to rising case counts and hospital utilization.

Thursday morning, the state reported a single-day record of 35 deaths on Wednesday from COVID-19, the largest single-day increase in deaths reported since the pandemic began.

Malcolm repeated the importance of wearing masks and social distancing while acknowledging such measures would be very difficult to employ during the current situation in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Critical quote: 

"I'm understanding the forecast is for very large protests this weekend, with a lot of people coming in from across the state and around the country and gathering in large groups," Health Commissioner Malcolm told reporters on Thursday. "That's almost sure to have an impact on furthering spread."

Big Number: 

967: The Health Department said Thursday that 967 Minnesotans were confirmed to have died from the coronavirus.

Tangent:

Available data suggest the coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact on minorities. According to the Star Tribune, black people have contracted at least 29% of the known Covid-19 cases with listed racial information in Minnesota, despite making up a little more than 6% of the state's population. The Tribune adds, "an initial state health analysis of the first 1,104 hospitalized cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota also showed that nearly 25% with known race data were black."

Key Background:

Thursday's protests in Minneapolis were the most destructive to date, with protesters setting fire to a police precinct and President Trump threatening to send in the military to shoot protesters. "People are moved to want to speak and to want to gather in solidarity and in protest, and we certainly honor and respect that right," Jan Malcolm said Thursday. "As we know, large gatherings do pose a risk in any epidemic, but certainly where we stand today with the state of COVID-19 spread in our community. Knowing that we have community spread, we just want to again encourage folks who gather to be mindful of the risk."

Further Reading:

Protests Erupt Across The Country As Minneapolis Police Precinct Burns (Forbes) 

Protests could trigger virus surge in Minnesota as deaths hit new high (Star Tribune) 

May 28 update on COVID-19 in MN: 967 dead; Floyd protests may drive spread (MPR News) 

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