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Local doctors weigh in on how large protests could impact COVID-19 cases in the St. Louis area

Doctors say right now the number of cases is still low, but we will have a better idea of how large protests could impact COVID-19 case numbers in a few weeks

ST. LOUIS — For the last week or so thousands of people in St. Louis and across the country have been gathering in the streets protesting the death of George Floyd.

On top of that, it's all happening during a global pandemic. 

5 On Your Side spoke with an infectious disease expert and an emergency doctor Saturday to find out how the protests could be impacting COVID cases here. 

Many times the demonstrations are with thousands of people gathering closely together at one time. It's something that worries Infectious Disease Expert and Barnes Jewish Hospital Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Clay Dunagan.

"Some of them have been observing good precautions but many have not," Dunagan said. "People are crowded together and sometimes being pushed together by people managing the events. There's a lot of yelling and singing both of which we know can lead to the virus floating in the air."

But how much will gatherings like these impact new COVID cases? 

"The proof is going to be in the pudding, so we'll see what happens with virus spread when the summer gets going," Dunagan said.

Mercy Emergency Physician Dr. Brian Ullery says proper social distancing and wearing masks is the biggest thing people who are planning on gathering can do to stay healthy. 

"Wear masks more than anything, you know it's important for people to be able to express themselves but just do it safely," Ullery said.

Wearing masks is something Dr. Dunagan says he hasn't seen as much as he'd like, even before protests started. 

"Obviously we had the Memorial Day weekend where people were a little more liberal with their activities than we would've likes them to be," Dunagan said.

Now the only question is where do we go from here? 

"We're in a waiting period right now," Dunagan said.

Doctors say thankfully right now the number of cases is still low but we will have a better idea of how thousands of people gathering to demonstrate will impact COVID-19 cases in a couple weeks.

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