BLM Protest

Protests demanding justice for black lives are taking place across the nation, but with large crowds comes an increased risk of spreading COVID-19. Public health information administer Kathryn Wall said no new cases have led back to Springfield protests, but she advised people to wear masks and maintain a distance of at least six feet. 

Since the day of George Floyd’s death on May 25, which involved Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin suffocating Floyd during arrest, people around the world have protested demanding justice for black lives taken at the hands of law enforcement.

Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and Minneapolis are among the larger cities where citizens are organizing protests, with crowds reaching up to 10,000 in places like Washington D.C. according to The Washington Post.

However, cities with larger populations pose a higher risk for the spread of COVID-19, according to a map updated by the New York Times on June 11.

Residents in Springfield have been organizing their own protests, with peaceful marches taking place for nearly two weeks.  

Madi Lormand, MSU alumnus, participated in a protest held on May 30 at the corner of Battlefield and Glenstone, and said she did everything to keep herself as safe as possible while protesting.

“I wore a face mask the entire time, brought hand sanitizer and kept my distance from people as much as possible,” Lormand said. 

Lormand said she remained thoughtful that COVID-19 was still a threat throughout the entirety of the protest but felt it was necessary to participate in order to make a difference.

“It was important to still participate because in order for change to happen, we must speak in vast numbers,” Lormand said.

Lauren Thomas, Ozark Technical College sophomore and practical nursing major, also participated in the protest on May 30, as well on June 6, and followed similar precautions to Lormand, such as wearing a mask and avoiding physical contact.

“I decided to go because I felt the threat of the virus in the Springfield area wasn’t as much as it is in more populated areas, and I was confident that everyone else who attended would follow the same precautions I did,” Thomas said.

On Saturday, June 6, the Springfield Police Department said in a Facebook post that the official crowd estimate was 2,500 for the protest at Park Central Square taking place the afternoon of June 6.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department lists 67 active COVID-19 cases as of June 13, with 198 confirmed overall. For the most recent number of cases in Springfield, click here.

Kathryn Wall, public health information administrator for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said no new cases have led back to the protests, but if any arise the health department would release a statement addressing any exposures.

“People should stay home if they are sick or think they may be sick, wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing of six or more feet and avoid shaking hands, giving hugs and long face-to-face conversation,” said Wall regarding safety tips for protestors. 

Wall said the health department encourages people to keep travel-sized hand sanitizer and to stay hydrated, especially as temperatures begin to rise.

“It is estimated that if 60% of a community wears a mask (with proper physical distance and hygiene), it will reduce the transmission rate of COVID-19 to less than 1.0%,” said President and CEO of Cox Health Steve Edwards in a Twitter post on June 10.

Greene County entered phase two of the state’s Road To Recovery plan on May 28, put in place by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which states individuals sharing outdoor spaces to abide by social distancing requirements.

Springfield will enter phase three on June 15, which allows public gatherings with a permit to meet with the number of allowed participants determined by the square footage of the space divided by 30 times 25%, with shared outdoor spaces having no restrictions.

Updates on Springfield’s COVID-19 restrictions and city orders can be found here.