Graham Kilmer

How to Protest During a Pandemic

Local health officials offers do's and don'ts that could save your life.

By - Jun 2nd, 2020 05:17 pm
Group of protesters sitting at Mitchell Street. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Group of protesters sitting at Mitchell Street. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

During a media briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic, local officials stressed that it remains important for protesters to follow social distancing guidelines as best they can while they march through town. 

As City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik put it, “We’re dealing with a crisis within a crisis… The fact of the matter is COVID-19 is here, it’s a pandemic.” And now, the crisis of racism is being illuminated by the massive uprising of protests over the killing of George Floyd and police brutality, bringing thousands into the streets.

 “We’re in double crisis mode, right now,” she said, “dealing with COVID and also dealing with racism.” And there have been many questions, she said, “about risk and people deciding about whether they were gonna go out and take a stand for not only the now but the future, knowing that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is high especially when you’re congregated.”

Uniformly, both local elected officials and public health officers are advising that protesters wear masks and social distance as much as possible. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 does not allow for exemptions,” Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said: “We have to think about the fact that we’re going into a summer where we’re dealing with a pandemic, something that we’ve never seen before.”

Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for Milwaukee County, said “It’s important as ever to be safe and mindful of our ongoing pandemic. Exercising the essential right to demonstrate and speak freely does not have to be mutually exclusive from maintaining safety in the time of COVID-19.”

Weston said some precautions protesters can take include wearing a mask at all times, staying outdoors, continuously moving and maintaining several feet of distance from one another. Kowalik encouraged making sure your mask fits properly, and bringing hand sanitizer to ensure proper hand hygiene.

The City of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention has been at the protests handing out Personal Protective Equipment. Director Reggie Moore said its staff have passed out more than 900 masks during the protests.

Leaders and health officials also encouraged protesters and residents to continue to take advantage of the community testing sites at  UMOS, 2701 S. Chase Ave. on the South Side and now at a new one on the North Side at the Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education at 5075 N. Sherman Blvd.

Said Crowley: “If there are individuals who were out protesting and do feel symptomatic, please do not wait to call your doctor, get tested, please call 211 to find the testing site near you.”

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More about the 2020 Racial Justice Protests

Read more about 2020 Racial Justice Protests here

More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here

Categories: Health

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