A spokeswoman said on Tuesday that National Guard members, who were sent to D.C. to respond to riots starting on May 31 and have since been among hundreds of thousands of protestors in the nation’s capital, have tested positive for COVID-19, bolstering concerns over a protest-induced spike in coronavirus cases.
D.C. National Guard spokeswoman Brooke Davis told McClatchy DC on Tuesday that members of the 1,300-person D.C. National Guard sent to respond to protests in the nation’s capital have tested positive for the virus, but did not disclose the number of positive tests recorded.
“We can confirm that we have had COVID-19 positive tests with the DCNG,” Davis said. “The safety and security of our personnel is always a concern, especially in light of the COVID-19 era.”
The D.C. National Guard was called to respond to rioting on May 31 and was expected to leave the city early this week, according to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
Davis said that any National Guard members who tested positive will be held back until they are no longer sick or contagious.
“All Guardsmen who are suspected to be at high risk of infection or have tested positive for COVID-19 during demobilization will not be released from Title 32 orders until risk of infection or illness has passed,” Davis said. “Members of the Air and Army National Guard with no, or low risk of exposure, who present symptoms of infection one to 14 days after release from orders will contact their unit.”
The Nebraska National Guard also reported Guardsmen testing positive on Monday after responding to protests in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Public health officials have warned of possible spikes in the number of coronavirus cases as a result of the massive crowds gathering to protest across the U.S. Two weeks after George Floyd’s death, thousands are still gathering in major cities and suburbs alike. McClatchy DC reported that on Saturday, in the largest protest in D.C. to date, participants were packed tightly together, with many not wearing masks. Authorities estimated that around 200,000 attended the protest.
By Jemima McEvoy