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State health officials watch for coronavirus cases tied to protests

Parker Miles Blohm
Protesters march through Seattle on Saturday, in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

Washington state health officials say they’re watching carefully to see whether crowded protests will contribute to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Heath Secretary John Wiesman says, in general, outdoor activities are less risky than indoor ones. But he says anything that brings people close together for long periods is concerning.

“I’m confident, I would say, that there are probably going to be some cases associated with this,” Wiesman said in a telebriefing Tuesday. “When you just have large groups of people together, and, you know, we have a pandemic, there's likely to be some kind of infection there.”

Wiesman noted that raised voices, such as yelling and singing, may increase the dispersal of droplets from an infected person. He urged people over 65 or those with underlying health conditions, and anyone experiencing symptoms, not to attend demonstrations, and suggested they make their voices heard in other ways.

Public Health Seattle and King County recently released guidance for people heading to protests on how to reduce their risk. The advice includes wearing face coverings, using hand sanitizer frequently and keeping 6 feet from others, to the extent possible.

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Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.