After a fourth night of crowded and chaotic protests in New York City against racism and deadly police brutality, the mayor and the governor voiced strong concerns Monday that the demonstrations could set off a second wave of coronavirus infections. It echoed worries by public health officials about the six days of demonstrations across the United States after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis.
“You turn on the TV, and you see mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people after everything we have done,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said.
He noted that the state had just hit a big milestone: On Sunday, under 1,000 people tested positive, for the first time since March 16. The percentage of daily positive tests has fallen from over 50 percent to under 2 percent, and the latest daily death toll was 54, down from nearly 800 in April.
“How many super-spreaders were in that crowd?” Mr. Cuomo asked. “How many young people went home and kissed their mother hello, or shook hands with their father, or hugged their father or their grandfather or their grandmother or their brother or their sister, and spread a virus?”
The convergence of the pandemic and the nationwide demonstrations has forced many political leaders to try to strike a difficult balance between expressing support for the right to protest and safeguarding the public health.
“If you say, ‘Don’t come out because of the pandemic,’” Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said, “We don’t want people to hear about this as, ‘We are not hearing your concerns, or your concerns are not valid, or we don’t have to change things.’”
Still, he said, “for those who have made their presence felt, made their voices heard, the safest thing from this point is to stay home.” On Monday afternoon, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio said a curfew in New York City would be in effect from 11 p.m. Monday to 5 a.m. Tuesday.
More than 100,000 Americans have already died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. People of color have been particularly hard hit, with rates of hospitalizations and deaths among black Americans far exceeding those of white people.
Public health officials urged anyone who does protest to wear face coverings, use hand sanitizer and maintain social distance. Though some experts said that the fact that the protests are held outdoors could reduce the risk of transmission, the leader of New York City’s contact-tracing effort said that everyone who attended a protest should get tested for the virus.
New York Times