Q: My loved one has been out marching over the past few days. What about COVID-19 and other safety risks associated with protests and marches?
A: We at Dear Pandemic are committed to helping you reduce the risks associated with every activity. We also believe that law enforcement agencies and local/state government have a large role in reducing the risks of transmission at protests.
So, if you are out, consider the following as an individual:
Ground rules: Don’t go out if you are ill. Try to stay distanced from other people (6 feet). Try not to touch your face.
1-Wear a mask and keep it on. You will be in close proximity to others and also potentially yelling/singing (which may increase risk through increased projection of viral droplets).
2-Carry hand sanitizer. If you can’t get to a place where you can wash your hands, this is very important.
3-Plan for possible exposure to chemical irritants. Chemicals such as tear gas can travel far and you can be exposed even if you are not directly involved wtih the protest. Contact lenses are more likely to trap irritants, so wear glasses. Consider safety goggles or swim goggles for extra protection.
4-Carry water for drinking and to wash irritants out of eyes/skin. Use a bottle with a squirt top to be used in the eyes if needed.
5-Wear sunscreen/hat/long pants/sleeves. This will protect you from sunburn as well as exposure to chemical irritants.
6-Wear shoes you can walk and run in so that you may move quickly.
7-Carry your own snacks to minimize interactions with others.
8-Write down important numbers in the event that you are separated from your phone or run out of battery.
9-Go with people and/or let others know your location. Try to go with people who are close household contacts to make contact tracing slightly easier.
10-Isolate for 14 days and get tested for COVID-19 if you develop symptoms after you attend. Many cities are asking anyone who attends to follow up with testing.
11-Wash your hands and shower when you return home to reduce any additional risk.
12-Allow yourself time to process, rest, and talk to loved ones after participating. It can be an emotionally exhausting experience to participate in an event.
Law enforcement and local/state authorities should focus on de-escalation and supporting safe protests.
1-The use of aggressive crowd dispersal techniques such as firing rubber bullets, riot lines, tear gas, and other chemical irritants to disperse crowds is not safe across several domains related to health, including violence prevention, structural racism, AND COVID-19 transmission. These tactics should not be used on protesters.
2-Promote physical distancing. Do not force crowds into small spaces where they are not able to maintain distance from others (thus not adhering to the 6 feet rule).
3-Allow loudspeakers, megaphones, or noise makers in place of yelling. This will help protesters project their message while minimizing viral spread from droplets expelled by yelling.
These strategies are all about harm reduction. Some activities carry risks. The important thing is to minimize cumulative and collective risks. We are thinking of all of you at this difficult time and hope that we can help you continue to minimize risks in your daily lives.
《Edited for minor points of clarity 12:20 PM on June 4 》