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Specialists say protests could cause problems for COVID contact tracing

(KFYR)
Published: Jun. 2, 2020 at 7:41 PM CDT
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When someone in North Dakota is diagnosed with COVID-19, the Department of Health interviews them to find out who they've been in contact with. From there, they let the contacts know they're at possible risk for contracting the virus. However, gathering in large crowds could hinder the process.

Specialists say contact tracing helps uncover how and where a virus is spreading. However, protests could make this job much more difficult or even impossible.

Yet protesters say it's worth it.

Throughout the nation, people are protesting to demonstrate their feelings over the death of George Floyd. Taking to the streets across North Dakota.

"I hope they do something to bring some peace in the world. We need some peace," said Bismarck resident Carter Davis.

Yet, protesting during a global pandemic creates a unique set of issues. One is the inability to social distance.

"Coughing, sneezing, loud yelling, singing, things that can typically spread the respiratory droplets can spread to those that are around you. And so, practicing good social distancing is important," said Levi Schlosser, respiratory and syndromic surveillance epidemiologist with North Dakota Department of Health.

Protests can also become an obstacle to contact tracing.

"It is important that people do remember who they've been in contact with because, depending on their level of exposure, they may be at risk for contracting COVID or spreading COVID," Schlosser said.

Without knowing who you've been in contact with after catching COVID, those who might be at risk can't be identified or contacted and specialists can't identify the burden of disease in the state.

However, those that go out say the pros of protesting outweigh the cons.

"This is more important than a disease. I'm sorry, but this is way more important than a disease. I don't care," Davis said.

Some Bismarck protesters did wear masks and made an effort to distance themselves three feet apart, which Schlosser says could help stop the spread.

The choice to go out and protest is up to you.

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