The large protests in Pennsylvania calling for justice in the death of a Minneapolis man will not change the state’s plans to reopen counties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There have been no discussions,” state Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Monday when asked about concerns about the protests.
Protests have been held daily in Pittsburgh following the May 25 death of George Floyd while the African-American man was in police custody. Others have been carried out in small cities, including Washington, and larger ones, such as Harrisburg and Philadelphia.
Levine said the state will monitor the virus closely, but that it will be difficult to connect any new outbreaks to the protesting.
“They don’t give us their names,” she said, while also recognizing the protesters’ civil rights to assemble.
She said health officials across the United States have concerns about the spread of COVID-19 because of these gatherings, especially if those involved are not wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
The number of cases and deaths from the virus has significantly declined statewide, including among residents and staff at long-term care facilities, Levine said.
There were a dozen new COVID-19 deaths reported Monday, the lowest the one-day total has been statewide since late March. The death toll from the disease increased to 5,567.
The number of people statewide who have tested positive for the virus increased Monday to 72,282 after 356 new cases were announced Monday.
In Washington County, where five deaths have been reported from the virus, one new case of the virus was announced Monday, taking its total to 140. Greene County’s positive case count remained at 27.
The two counties will join most of Southwestern Pennsylvania in moving Friday into the green phase of reopening, which will allow bars and restaurants and other nonessential businesses to reopen under guidelines.