LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Public health experts in Los Angeles County are concerned about the spread of coronavirus as thousands gather to protest the deadly arrest of George Floyd.

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While many have worn masks and some initial protests called on participants to practice physical distancing, many groups were seen without face coverings and standing closely together as they demanded justice.

L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer urged demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights to also consider the health of themselves and their community.

To date, 2,384 people have died in L.A. County due to COVID-19, with Ferrer stating that African Americans have shown a slightly higher rate of death than other races and ethnicities.

“We know that black Americans fare worse than other groups on virtually every measure of health status and it has become all too common to blame this on individual behaviors, when in fact the science is clear,” she said in a press conference on Monday. “The root cause of health inequities is racism and discrimination and how it limits access to the very opportunities and resources each of us need for optimal health and well-being.”

Protests emerged across California and worldwide following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died shortly after an officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes while arresting him.

Demonstrators have also been speaking out in the name of other African Americans who died at the hands of police officers.

“We are experiencing difficult and tumultuous times across the country and we join in the many voices that are coming together in anger, frustration and protest. Peaceful protests are so important but I ask you all to look out for each other when coming together,” Ferrer said. “While you’re out with others, please wear cloth face coverings. As much as possible, please practice physical distancing, keeping six feet apart from everyone else. There’s a lot of risk at these gatherings becoming superspreader events.”

Health experts continue to encourage people to stay safe by staying at home if they are ill, washing their hands frequently and avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth.


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