Several big-city mayors and top officials are acknowledging that weeks of anti-police protests and riots may have contributed to surging COVID-19, a touchy subject that most have dismissed or tried to avoid.
In public statements and interviews with Fox News this weekend, officials in Los Angeles, Seattle and Miami-Dade County, Fla., have indicated that some link between protests and new cases was at least possible. Still, many officials declined to comment when contacted by Fox News this weekend, and others – including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's office – disputed that the protests had caused any issue.
"Based on our health indicators, which measure hospital admissions, number of people in ICU and percentage of New Yorkers testing positive, we have seen no indication of an uptick in cases," Avery Cohen, de Blasio's deputy press secretary, told Fox News.
New York officials were previously less tolerant of mass gatherings — at least, for certain religious groups. In April, de Blasio told the Jewish community that "the time for warnings has passed" after he said a funeral gathering had violated social distancing guidelines.
New York's current position differs markedly from assessments by officials in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Last Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti acknowledged that public protests likely were causing a COVID spike, just two days after claiming there wasn't "any conclusive evidence" showing a connection between the two.
"I talked again with Dr. Ferrer about that this morning," Garcetti said, referencing Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the L.A. County public-health director. "She does think some of the spread did come from our protests," he added. "It’s not the act of protesting — that’s a great and American thing to do no matter what your opinion is... but protesting without maintaining physical distancing, without wearing your mask, without having sanitizer – we just have to be smart. Whether you’re at a protest or at your home, whether in your workplace or whether you’re out shopping, these rules don’t change."
A spokesperson for Carlos A. Giménez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, told Fox News on Sunday the protests were a "contributing factor" to the local coronavirus spike.
Giménez "meets several times a week with his team of medical experts," the spokesperson, Patty Abril, responded in an email. "Those experts have told him that, based on information in our local emergency rooms, the protests were a contributing factor, along with our community letting its guard down and not social distancing or wearing masks, as mandated."