RICHMOND, Va. - While protesters stand in solidarity in tightly-packed crowds spreading their message against racial injustice, health officials fear some could be spreading something else.
“Anytime you’re in a large gathering, you increase your risk of getting the disease,” said Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver.
With hundreds of protesters flooding streets across the state and country, there is little room for social distancing.
On Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) stressed those participating should get tested.
“I understand that people feel this is a critical time of change and they want to make their voices heard,” Northam said. “I strongly encourage protesters to wear face coverings and social distance as much as possible, and I would urge protesters to get tested.”
For the most part, many protesters News 3 has seen were wearing masks.
Though the state continues to see a downward trend in COVID cases since the end of May, Northam has a warning for those disregarding safety guidelines.
“It’s not smart to act like the virus has been eradicated because it has not,” Northam said. “It is still here; it is still dangerous, and we must continue to be cautious.”
North Carolina, however, is reporting a spike in new cases.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported an increase of 1,310 cases of the virus on Thursday from the day before. The daily case total of 39,481 was the second-highest reported in the state.
“I am concerned,” NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said during a recent press event. “These trends moving in the wrong direction is a signal we need to take v seriously. If you attended a mass gathering or a protest, get tested. If you work in a setting at higher risk of exposer, like a grocery store, or a childcare program, or restaurant, get tested.”
Back in Virginia, health experts recommend heading to the health department’s website, clicking on COVIDCHECK to see if you have symptoms and find a testing site.
Several more drive-thru testing sites will open Friday.