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Health officials worried large protests may spread virus, MDH says protestors should get tested

Most of the demonstrators are wearing masks, but health officials say we may still see a spike in new COVID-19 cases.

State health officials say all protesters should consider getting tested for coronavirus.

The announcement came Monday afternoon during the Minnesota Department of Health’s daily virus briefing.

The agency, however, says people should not get tested right away.

Rather, they should get tested sometime within the incubation period of two to 14 days.

State health officials say they are working on guidance for health care providers to direct them to test people whether they are showing symptoms or not.

Dr. Caitllin Eccles-Radtke with Hennepin Healthcare was immediately concerned when she saw the large groups of demonstrators on television, but she says there are a few positive factors that could work in their favor.

"Watching the media coverage, I noticed number one, a lot of the people that were out were wearing masks, and two, they were younger and potentially in lower risk groups in terms of COVID-19. So, if we do see a large amount of cases, maybe they'll be more mild," Eccles-Radtke says.

Milder cases would be easier for hospitals, because they don’t typically require hospitalization.

That will help hospitals that are already running out of available ICU beds.

Ryan Demmer with the University of Minnesota Epidemiology Department agrees is most concerned about the families these demonstrators go back home to.

“I worry that they’re going into living situations where they’re living with vulnerable individuals or may come into contact with someone who lives with a vulnerable individual,” Demmer says.

Another concern is that the virus is often spread by people who are asymptomatic, so even demonstrators who look fine and feel fine could potentially spread the virus unknowingly.

"That's what makes these big events so dangerous. You really are fighting something invisible," Demmer says.

Eccles-Radtke is also concerned about jails with thousands of demonstrators arrested here in the Twin Cities alone.

She says inside spaces create a better environment for the virus to spread.

And with sometimes dozens of people all standing in the same jail cell the virus could spread very quickly.

"It's important to speak out and protest, but we also don't want to lose any more lives. So, it's just really important that people stay safe. If you have to go out, wear masks, wash your hands. You know, take the necessary precautions to protect you and your family."

The state health department has an interactive map that shows every testing location in the state.

Click here to check it out.

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