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Floyd Protests Could Cause Spike In Virus Cases, State Fears

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Medical staff staged a demonstration outside UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland as part of a White Coats for Black Lives event.

The coronavirus caused 51 additional deaths among Pennsylvanians and about eight times that number in new infections, health officials said Thursday, while Philadelphia kept close tabs on its virus numbers after recent protests.

There were 467 new infections, the state reported. It has reported 6,113 total virus deaths, and more than 77,000 people have contracted it.

Pennsylvania has been reopening in phases under a stoplight-colored plan designed to relax restrictions in places where the outbreak is less severe. State lawmakers passed a resolution this week to end Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's business shutdown and lift other restrictions, and Senate Republicans asked a state court Wednesday to enforce it.

Residents of nursing and personal care homes account for more than two-thirds of the state's death toll.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the confirmed count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

Philadelphia’s health commissioner said there is concern that protests following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota will lead to a spike in virus infections in the city, but so far, “there’s no evidence of transmission yet.”

Dr. Thomas Farley said at an online news conference Thursday that many of the protesters in Philadelphia were wearing masks and that “in many cases they were keeping a distance from other people.”

On Saturday, thousands jammed the city's grand Benjamin Franklin Parkway to demonstrate against police treatment of black people and racial injustice.

“It’s still early. We’re going to have to watch this for at least another week, but so far, so good,” Farley said.

Officials have urged demonstrators to get tested.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. More than 70% of the people with confirmed infections have since recovered, officials say.

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