White House coronavirus task force members warned governors of a possible spike in infections tied to the nationwide demonstrations.
The service members were among 1,300 DC National Guard members called to assist law enforcement in responding to anti-police brutality protests in the nation’s capital beginning on May 31, a spokeswoman confirmed to McClatchy DC.
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She would not say how many troops had tested positive for the virus, but US officials told the Associated Press they believe it is not currently a large number.
The news follows reports that two members of the Nebraska National Guard who were activated to respond to protests in Lincoln also tested positive.
About 5,000 troops were in Washington for the civil unrest, with the DC guards being joined by National Guardsmen from 11 states: Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.
Most were not wearing masks and it was largely impossible to maintain social distancing during the demonstrations.
Several health officials — including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci — fear that the mass protests sparked by the police-involved death of George Floyd could result in new outbreaks of the virus.
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Dr. Deborah Birx, President Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, on Monday relayed fears of increased spread in a conference call with governors, the Daily Beast reported.
In the call, a recording of which was obtained by the outlet, Birx said the administration worried that yelling protesters would negate the health benefits of wearing a mask.
She also reportedly warned that the destruction of testing sites at protests could set back efforts to contain the pandemic, advising governors to “scramble now to make sure there is testing available in urban areas.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who hosted the call, said protest-related infection spikes were “an issue our team is following and there is a concern,” according to the outlet.
Despite the concern, Pence said it was “undeniable” that the country was ready to reopen, and several of the governors agreed.
With Post wires
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