'So far, so good': Philadelphia not seeing rise in coronavirus cases in wake of protests

Nearly a week after a large protest to denounce police brutality in the wake of the police custody death of George Floyd saw thousands of Philadelphians gather tightly together, some are concerned that the marches could lead to an uptick in new coronavirus cases.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said on Good Day Friday morning that despite the closeness, Philadelphia has not seen a surge in new cases.

"There's a lot of reason to worry about that," said Dr. Farley. "All our numbers so far are not showing any increase in transmission as a result of [the protests]."


The health commissioner admitted that it is still too early to determine what impact of the rallies will have on case counts, but Farley noted that protesters did a good job of wearing face coverings and keeping their distance.

To date, Philadelphia has managed 24,107 confirmed positive tests with 1,434 deaths. Over the last five days, the average number of positive tests in the city has fallen to 80. The Philadelphia Department of Health reported just one coronavirus death on Thursday.

In the wake of the first round of protests in Philadelphia, city health officials urged participants to get tested for coronavirus and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance for demonstraters.

Farley says that despite the protests, which forced several Philadelphia testing sites to close, the number of daily tests remains level.

"We did see a drop off in our testing numbers a little bit last week. We were doing about 1,900 a day and it dropped to maybe 1,500 a day," Farley said. "But as of yesterday we reported 2,100 results, so the number of tests is pretty good."

While testing sites remain an important part of the city's response to the ongoing pandemic, Farley said that some patients go to emergency rooms for testing. So far, the city has seen a continued steady decrease in emergency room visits.

Patients who have coronavirus start to exhibit symptoms after about 4-6 days and become contagious within that time frame, according to Dr. Farley. It's important to consider that Philadelphia's largest protest which saw thousands of demonstrators gather outside the Art Museum happened less than a week ago. 

"If we were really to see a lot of spread, we might start to see it now," Farley said. "I'd like to see another week or so of data before I'm comfortable, but so far so good."

MORE: Thousands march against police brutality in Philadelphia

Farley believes the encouraging data is a testament to the protesters wearing masks and socially distancing. If the spread remains low in the fallout of the wide scale protests, he believes the data will help make future determinations on outdoor events.

"The mask is really important, it doesn't take out every droplet you cough out but a very large majority of them," Farley said. "The three things we want everybody to remember is: mask, distance, hand washing."


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