Vice President Mike Pence said the administration has not seen a major rise in new coronavirus cases related to ongoing protests and noted many protesters were wearing masks.
“Our team has been following the potential health implications of these protests very closely,” Pence said Wednesday on Fox Business Network. “And what I can tell you is that, at this point, we don’t see an increase in new cases now nearly two weeks on from when the first protests took effect.”
Pence, who leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, also said his team has seen “no significant” increase in COVID-19 cases related to people being out and about over Memorial Day weekend.
“The truth is the American people have a lot of common sense. They understand the importance as we continue to work every day to put this coronavirus in the past of continuing good hygiene. Many people at protests were wearing masks and engaging in some social distancing.”
The vice president also said that “sunlight, humidity, heat, all have a very good effect for us on defeating the coronavirus in its transmission.”
“So, we remain hopeful. We’re following it, but at this point, now nearly two weeks on from the initial protests, we haven’t seen an uptick,” he added.
The comments come after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House team, cautioned that the protests are a “perfect setup for further spread of the virus in the sense of creating these blips which might turn into some surges.” There has also been fear that police use of tear gas could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s a delicate balance because the reasons for demonstrating are valid. And yet, the demonstration itself puts one at an additional risk, so the only thing we can do as public health officials is to keep warning people be careful,” Fauci said.
The protests, which hope to draw attention to police brutality and systemic racism, began across the country after the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was filmed being violently pinned to the ground by a white police officer. Video of the encounter shows Floyd begging for air before falling unconscious and later dying in police custody.