Public Health acknowledges that many protesters, particularly Black, Indigenous and People of Color, are choosing to take on the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 because of the importance of confronting and undoing the systems of racism, oppression and brutality. People are protesting because their lives depend on it.
We are concerned about the possible spread of COVID-19 at these large gatherings, and for the potential to exacerbate the racial/ethnic disparities in COVID-19 rates for communities of color, especially for Black, Native, Latinx, and Pacific Islander residents of King County.
We urge all people protesting against racial injustice to take steps to stay healthy and avoid bringing COVID-19 home with them. We need to keep each other healthy now and get to a more just future for everyone.
Here are a few tips for before, during, and after protests to reduce risk of COVID-19 for yourself and others:
Before You Go
- Stay home if you do not feel well. If you go out, you risk getting others sick.
- Consider staying home if you have an underlying health condition, or are 60 or over. Take action in other ways from home by registering to vote and supporting local organizations.
- Wear face coverings correctly. Fully cover your nose, mouth and chin; this will help prevent droplets from spreading if you decide to chant.
- Carry only what you need to keep you safe. Carry shatterproof goggles, a face covering, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, water bottle, snacks, an ID, and any medication you may need (for example, an inhaler).
- Carry saline in a squirt bottle. You can use saline or tap water to alleviate coughing and sneezing if you are exposed to tear gas.
- Go with a small group. Attend with a small group of friends and limit unknown contacts.
- Have a plan. Map out the route, establish exit routes and possible detours.
- Make an emergency contact list. Write essential phone numbers and important health information on your skin in permanent marker.
While You Are There
- Use noisemakers, drums and written signs. Limit how much you chant or yell to reduce possible exposure to others.
- Physical distancing is still important. Keep as much physical distance as possible between yourself and people who are not part of your group.
- Keep practicing healthy hand hygiene. Use hand sanitizer and avoid touching others. Also avoid touching your face.
- Bring your own supplies and do not share. Avoid sharing water bottles, microphones, etc.
- Take care of your physical and mental health. Consider when you may need to leave an unsafe situation.
Once You Return Home
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as soon as you get home.
- Change your clothes. Put the clothes in the washer. Wash your hands again.
- Monitor your health for 14 days afterwards. Symptoms may appear up to 14 days later.
- Take care of your mental health. Call Crisis Connections 24/7 at 1-866-427-4747 for support.
- Get tested right away if you develop even mild COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, or spent more than 15 minutes close to someone who tested positive.
- Contact your health provider to help evaluate symptoms and need for testing.
- Avoid contact with others until you have been tested, particularly those who may be at greater risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
If you can’t access testing through a health provider, a list of free sites is included below and can also be found at kingcounty.gov/covid/testing.
Originally published June 10, 2020.