Lifestyle Health Crowded Protests Spark Fears of an Increase in Coronavirus Cases Protesters have said that supporting the fight for racial justice is worth the risk of contracting COVID-19 By Julie Mazziotta Julie Mazziotta Twitter Julie Mazziotta is the Sports Editor at PEOPLE, covering everything from the NFL to tennis to Simone Biles and Tom Brady. She was previously an Associate Editor for the Health vertical for six years, and prior to joining PEOPLE worked at Health Magazine. When not covering professional athletes, Julie spends her time as a (very) amateur athlete, training for marathons, long bike trips and hikes. People Editorial Guidelines Published on June 1, 2020 01:00 PM Share Tweet Pin Email As thousands of Americans protested this weekend following the death of George Floyd while in police custody, health officials and political leaders have expressed concern that a spike in COVID-19 cases could follow in the coming weeks. Most protesters have been wearing masks, but with close conditions as they marched through streets in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City, among other cities, social distancing was nearly impossible at a time when COVID-19 is still circulating in the U.S., with around 20,000 new cases a day. In Atlanta, which has seen three straight days of protests, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that she is worried about new infections, particularly among the black community which has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. “If you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a COVID test this week,” she said during a news briefing on Sunday. “There is still a pandemic in America that’s killing black and brown people at higher numbers.” Protesters walk through New York City May 30 in the wake of George Floyd's death. BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday that he is concerned about further spread, particularly in Minnesota, where COVID-19 cases had already been rising. "There's going to be a lot of issues coming out of what's happened in the last week, but one of them is going to be that chains of transmission will have become lit from these gatherings," he said on Face the Nation, adding that the U.S. "isn't through this epidemic." And Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the protests could be “super-spreader events” — gatherings where the virus quickly spreads with people in close contact — but that he understands the need to protest. “It is not a reason to not protest — we want to find peaceful ways for people to do that,” he said. Demonstrators in Los Angeles. ARIANA DREHSLER/AFP via Getty Images Several protesters have spoken to media outlets about why protesting for racial justice is worth the risk of developing COVID-19. “I cannot in good conscience let this moment pass me by,” said Hasani Sinclair, a 38-year-old high school history teacher, told the Los Angeles Times. He had been staying home, only going out in public with a mask and has been tested multiple times for COVID-19, but said that as a black man, he needed to speak out against police brutality that “has been a silent cause of death for years and years and years.” Sućdi, a 24-year-old student in Minneapolis told The Cut that it was worth the risk. “I’m terrified of the coronavirus. I’m diabetic, and my mom is very worried. But I tell her there’s no choice,” she said. “I went out because I do not want my future children to experience that rush of fear and panic when being pulled over by a traffic cop. I had to choose which virus poses the biggest threat to my family, friends, and me. And that’s the police.” On Saturday, the New York City Health Department shared tips for protesting as safely as possible during COVID-19. They suggested wearing face masks, eye protection, using noisemakers instead of yelling and staying six feet away from other people. As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.