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Global Times

US riots may cause new COVID-19 cases: expert

Global Times

By Zhao Yusha and Zhao Juecheng Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/2 19:02:32

Pandemic lockdowns partly contributed to violent protests nationwide

Massive protests across the US over the death of George Floyd will almost certainly add fuel to the fire of the country's already severe coronavirus outbreak, a US expert predicted, while pointing out that there is a causality between the viral outbreak and the ongoing protests.

The horrifying spread of the coronavirus forced many people in the US to keep social distancing and go into self-quarantine in recent months. But while the spread of the virus has yet to be curbed, Americans nationwide have decided to break social distancing protocols and gather to voice anger over the death of the African-American man at the hands of police, an incident that has set off the tinderbox of the US' deep-rooted racial problems.

The mass protests and large gatherings will surely accelerate the viral spread in the US, as many protesters broke social distancing rules and did not even wear masks during the demonstrations, Chen Xi, an associate professor of public health at Yale University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

As for the scale of the possible increase in cases, Chen said that it depends largely on conditions in different cities. In New Haven, Connecticut protesters were generally seen wearing masks, but rioters in other places did not follow suit.

When people cough, sneeze or even speak loudly, the virus can be transmitted via droplets in the air, according to health experts.

Minnesota's health commissioner previously warned that the protests are almost certain to fuel new cases of the virus. The state of Minnesota reported 35 deaths on Thursday, a single-day high in the outbreak, and 29 more on Friday, US media reported.

The US reported 18,850 new cases on Monday, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 1.79 million. The US has the highest number of coronavirus cases worldwide, reports said.

Asked about potential health risks from the protests that have flared up in the US, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said that close contact could heighten the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

Americans did not really take COVID-19 seriously at first, and continued exercising and walking their dogs despite being advised by the government to stay in, said Huang Ruoyi, a Chinese student at the University of Minnesota. "Since the riots broke out, there has barely been anyone talking or caring about virus prevention," said Huang.

Huang said Chinese people in Minneapolis now barely step outside. "We joked that it's like a riot quarantine imposed on top of the coronavirus quarantine. It's getting more and more wild."

The mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, one of dozens of US cities hit by the protests in recent days, had a message for demonstrators: "If you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a COVID test this week."

In some places, such as Los Angeles, rioters vandalized CVS pharmacies, which provided nucleic test kits, and other nucleic test sites, said Chen, explaining that this kind of vandalism would undermine cities' capacity to test for the virus and eventually lead to a rise in the number of infected people.

He pointed out that there was actually a causality between the virus outbreak and the ongoing massive protests.

Chen said that the unusual violence shown by the protesters this time was partly a release of their suppressed emotions and anger, stored up during the COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing.

"I have never seen Americans locked down for so long. The more than two months of lockdown have, to some extent, injected a negative psychological energy, which they released via the protests. So from many angles, the massive protests are also a result of COVID-19," Chen said.

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