FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Northwest Arkansas has seen two large protests in the last couple of days, with more than a thousand people in attendance.
But, the with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, they might have put some people’s health at risk.
Around 4,000 people walked through the Fayetteville square Tuesday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The day before that, hundreds gathered in Bentonville.
“I think you want to attend those types of events with caution and with the understanding that we are in a pandemic,” said Dr. Gary Berner, the chief medical officer of Community Clinic NWA.
It’s not often a civil rights movement overlaps with a global pandemic, but Fayetteville protest organizer Alejandro Victorino says that was at the top of his mind.
He said, “Because we live in Northwest Arkansas, we’re aware of the threat of it.”
Northwest Arkansas has recently seen a spike of COVID-19 cases.
Our area also leads the state in positive cases.
“If we did 100 tests, maybe 4 to 6 would come back positive,” said Dr. Berner. “But now we’re seeing that rate increase significantly. So, if we did 100 tests we’re having more of those come back positive.”
To slow the spread of the coronavirus, Victorino bought packs of masks to hand out to people at the rally.
He says he also saw people, not affiliated his group, helping the cause.
“Every time I walked by a specific corner when we were organizing, there was a guy who would constantly ask me, ‘Hey you guys want hand sanitizer? Hey do you guys need sanitizer?'”
Community Clinic’s Dr. Gary Berner said this is helpful, because gathering in a group this large can put you at risk.
“There’s lots of yelling and shouting, heavy breathing, it’s hot outside and people are perspiring and breathing heavier. There’s lots of chanting. Anything like that’s increasing the vocalization of their voice may increase the risk some,” he said.
Victorino says his team did its best to keep people safe and healthy.
“I think we did a fairly good job and I think the community did a really really good job in showing up prepared,” he said.
If you did attend protests in the past two days or over the weekend, Dr. Berner said that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to rush out and get a COVID-19 test.
He says to only get tested if you develop symptoms or know you have been in close contact with someone who has the virus.