Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti admitted Wednesday that there is a link between the city’s massive Black Lives Matter protests and the spike in coronavirus cases, reversing a position he had taken earlier in the week.
Garcetti said he consulted with Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County’s director of public health, and was told there is a connection. Earlier this week, LA County surpassed the 100,000 mark in coronavirus cases, according to KTTV-TV.
“I talked again with Dr. Ferrer about that this morning. She does think some of the spread did come from our protests,” he said, according to Fox News.
The Democratic mayor affirmed his support for protesters, however.
“It’s not the act of protesting — that’s a great and American thing to do no matter what your opinion is … but protesting without maintaining physical distancing, without wearing your mask, without having sanitizer — we just have to be smart. Whether you’re at a protest or at your home, whether in your workplace or whether you’re out shopping, these rules don’t change,” Garcetti said.
“We do believe there is a connection. We don’t believe that everybody has been doing this safely, and wherever you can, please stay at home,” he said.
On Tuesday, Garcetti had dismissed connections between the protests and the spike in cases.
“We follow the data closely,” he said, according to KTTV. “There’s no evidence yet that the protests led to much spread, though it’s something that Doctor Ferrer has hypothesized. But we haven’t seen any conclusive evidence there.”
“People still can obviously and should exercise their First Amendment rights. This is a critical moment not to let up with that,” the mayor said Tuesday.
Fox News said it was sent a video of Ferrer answering questions about the protests and the spread of the virus in which she admitted there is a connection.
“In situations where people are close together for longer periods of time and it’s very crowded, we are certain that there is going to be spread. So, we’ve never said that there’s no spread from people who were protesting,” she said.
“We’ve been really honest and said from the beginning that for any people that are in crowded situations for long periods of time — which long for us means more than 15 minutes — where you’re in close contact with people, less than 6 feet apart, and people aren’t wearing a cloth face covering, you have a heightened risk of either transmitting the virus if you are an asymptomatic spreader, or getting the virus from someone else who is spreading because they also are an asymptomatic spreader,” she said.
“We’ve been looking very closely at the number of positive cases every day to see if there is an uptick in the context of the protests,” said Ted Long, executive director of the city’s contact tracing program. “We have not seen that.”
A report in The City said officials are making sure that connection is hard to find.
“No person will be asked proactively if they attended a protest,” Avery Cohen, a spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in an email to The City.
One expert said the lack of a New York City post-protest spike to date does not mean there will be no repercussions.
“This doesn’t say that being in a crowd is not risky,” said Howard Markel, a physician and historian of medicine at the University of Michigan.
“Like most every other aspect of this pandemic, the most predictable thing is the unpredictability,” he said.
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