George Floyd protests could spread coronavirus, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warns

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Mass protests across New York City could lead to a rise in coronavirus cases, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned during a daily press briefing on Monday.

Though the governor said he understands the demonstrators’ fight against racism and calls for equality after the death of George Floyd, he cautioned such gatherings  — where people are in close contact with one another and the use of face masks is not uniform — could prime the city for a potential increase in cases ahead of its planned June 8 reopening date.

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“You turn on the TV and you see these mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people after everything that we have done,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing. “We have to take a minute and ask ourselves: ‘What are we doing here?”

“It took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart?" he added.

At a separate briefing, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also expressed similar concerns.

“For those who have made their presence felt, made their voices heard, the safest thing from this point is to stay home, obviously,” he said.

The news comes as medical experts have warned that these large gatherings could hinder progress made to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In recent days, people in at least 75 cities across the nation have demonstrated in response to Floyd's death. But such events have put political leaders and public health experts on edge, warning that these large gatherings could lead to a “second wave” of the novel coronavirus especially as states have only recently begun to lift lockdown restrictions and report a decline in hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

“I recognized the importance of the protests but I am concerned people are putting themselves at greater risks for contracting coronavirus. Although the protests are outside, which helps with dissipating any virus, people are very close together. Certainly not six feet apart. Many are not wearing masks,” Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer for the healthcare website WebMD, told Fox News in an email.

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“The main method of transmission is respiratory droplets. The yelling, shouting, and screaming is likely expelling virus and people that are in close contact are likely getting infected,” he continued.

The protests come as New York’s statewide hospitalization rates have been ticking down for weeks and the daily death toll has gone from almost 800 in early April to 54 on Sunday, according to official estimates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.