Protestors kneel in front of the police during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles on June 2, 2020.
Kyle Grillot | AFP | Getty Images
Protests across the U.S. and other parts of the world over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police could be a “seeding event” for more coronavirus outbreaks, CDC Director Robert Redfield warned lawmakers Thursday.
Redfield told the House Appropriations Committee that he would like to see people who took part in the protests get tested for the virus in the next few days.
“I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” he said during the hearing on the U.S. response to the coronavirus. “And the way to minimize that is to have each individual to recognize it is an advantage of them to protect their loved ones, to [say] ‘hey, I was out, I need to go get tested.’”
Earlier in the hearing, Redfield said that he was “very concerned” the agency’s public health message on the coronavirus isn’t “resonating” with the public as cases continue to rise across the U.S.
He said he sees “a lot of people” not wearing masks in Washington, D.C., where he works, while many people do wear masks in his hometown of Baltimore. Crowds of people have been seen in recent weeks at protests, over the Memorial Day holiday and, Redfield noted, at the SpaceX launch this weekend.
“We will continue to message as well we can,” he said. “We’re going to encourage people that have the ability to require to wear masks when they are in their environment to continue to do that.”
The coronavirus, which emerged about five months ago, has sickened more than 1.8 million people and killed at least 107,175 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While cases have slowed in hot spots such as New York state, the U.S. is still seeing roughly 20,000 new Covid-19 cases a day.
Public health specialists warn that a slow burn of infection through the summer could lead to a massive resurgence this fall.
Redfield told lawmakers the U.S. is likely to have a “difficult time” during the fall and winter seasons as the coronavirus and flu circulate at the same time.
In April, Redfield first warned about the colder seasons, saying, “we’re going to have to distinguish between which is flu and which is the coronavirus.”
The hearing Thursday comes as the CDC’s response to the pandemic comes under scrutiny from former officials and infectious disease experts.
The CDC has remained largely quiet on the pandemic. Agency officials haven’t held a coronavirus-related briefing in more than two months.
During the hearing, House Democrats grilled Redfield on President Donald Trump’s push for states to reopen after shutting down as part of social distancing measures meant to curb the spread of the virus.