ATLANTA — After thousands of people came together to protest in Atlanta this weekend, doctors are now worried about the spread of COVID-19.
The protesters were in close quarters for long periods of time, standing next to strangers who could have the disease.
Kaitlyn Ross talked to our medical expert, Dr. Sujatha Reddy, about what people who may have been exposed should do next.
Dr. Reddy said she was concerned while watching the protests over the weekend.
She says that is exactly the environment the virus can spread rapidly in, and people who were there, should get tested.
"Loud talking, screaming, singing, we've seen that can be an easy way to transmit the virus," she said.
Dr. Reddy worries there could be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Atlanta after the protests this weekend.
"People chanting and shouting and then add in potentially coughing and sneezing because of tear gas or pepper spray and I think we had a lot of risk for a potential spread for coronavirus," she said.
Police used tear gas at several different times over the weekend, and she says the natural reaction to it could accelerate the spread of the virus.
"When you're exposed to smoke or any other irritant, your natural reflex is to cough, and coughing, sneezing, and then wiping your eyes, touching your face, that absolutely increases the risk of transmission if any of those people had coronavirus," she said.
Most of the protesters she saw were wearing masks.
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"I think the protesters weighed the risks and benefits, and their need to be heard outweighed their fear or their concern over coronavirus," she said.
For people who attended the protest, she says wearing a mask and staying socially distant from other people is the best defense.
"Wearing a mask is going to be the first thing you have to do, and then whoever is in your household unit, you can be within 6 feet of them, so if you go to the protest with a spouse or sibling, but then if you can try and maintain social distance from the strangers there, that would be the best thing," she said.
But if you didn't have a mask, or got close to other people in the crowd Dr. Reddy says it is best to get checked.
"People who were in those large groups, it would be ideal if they could get tested for COVID-19," she said.
She says pretty much anyone who was at the protests should consider getting a COVID-19 test.
If you can't get tested, she said it would be best to self-quarantine for 14 days.
She says symptoms usually show up within a few days, but you don't want to risk exposing anyone else.