Demonstrations against police violence are going on during a pandemic. Many protesters are wearing masks – but not all are adhering strictly to social distancing recommendations. Still, the Associate Dean for Health Equity at the University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School says we should be careful about drawing conclusions about new case numbers.
“We are not precise in the way in which we understand the risk of what we’re observing,” Dr. Jewel Mullen said. “We’ve been told for weeks and months that being outside is less risky than being inside when you’re up close to people, for example. I worry. But, once again, I’m very careful not to draw conclusions.”
For one, Mullen said protests are also happening as economies are reopening.
“Experts have, for months, tried to give us the best calculations about what it takes to safely reopen the economy here in Texas and in many other parts of the country,” Mullen said. “People have also conceded that businesses have reopened and people are getting closer together although we don’t have all the protective measures in place.”
Mullen recommends those participating in protests wear masks and wash their hands regularly. She also said people should consider coronavirus testing options.
“I wouldn’t say if you go to a protest today for the first time, tomorrow go get a test,” Mullen said. “Because we already understand one does not contract or show symptoms of COVID that quickly. But fill out the questionnaire, talk to people, and then get the advice about when to come in.”
But she also underscored that many people are doing more than just protesting.
“Many of the people who protest may also be essential workers who have been carrying undue risk for months,” Mullen said. “Which may just be one of the very reasons that they are not only protesting for better, fairer policing but for better work conditions, for better livelihoods. So let’s keep that in mind, too.”
Note: The headline for this story has been updated to clarify the source.