Protesters in Dallas urged to take health precautions during COVID-19 pandemic

Dallas County leaders and the Dallas Mavericks are working to get masks and hand sanitizer to groups of protestors.               

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins just spoke about a spike in cases. With 285 cases reported on Thursday and 22 deaths since Sunday, Dallas County is on track to having its deadliest week yet.

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Jenkins says he does support the peaceful demonstrations happening nationwide but encourages protesting online instead of in person.

While Thursday's numbers may not be reflective of any increases in cases due to large gatherings of protestors, Jenkins said that he is very concerned about the health of peaceful protestors and their families.

“I am proud of what you’re doing. I think what you’re doing is an important thing. If you can, find a way to do it outside of large crowds,” Jenkins said. “We know COVID disproportionately affects communities of color. Please find a way to do that.”

Jenkins asks those who choose to protest in crowds to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and practice social distancing. He also encourages people who can to get tested.

The county plans to release more details Friday about walk-up testing sites that will be set up in Dallas.

Jenkins reiterated that large gatherings are still discouraged by public health experts. He said that he understands the importance of the Americans’ right to free speech at this critical time in history. He said that is why he wants to keep protestors safe and give them the opportunity to be tested as soon as possible.

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 One health expert gave a very personal message as she urged protestors to stay six feet apart and use hand sanitizer and masks.

“I understand. I have two kids, millennials who feel they need to be out there protesting,” said Dr. Lisa Taylor-Kennedy, a Dallas anesthesiologist. “We want you to do it safely. We want you to wear a light-colored mask. We want you to remember we are in a pandemic. Don't forget.”

Earlier Gov. Greg Abbott spoke to FOX 7 Austin about what his plans are if COVID-19 cases do spike in areas where protestors have held large gatherings. He said Monday the state will be reassigning resources to help with testing and contact tracing in areas where there have been large protests.

“We have surge response teams that have gone into regions and done massive testing and through that contain hotspots, reduce number testing positive and normalize community with limiting spread,” Abbott said.

The governor says the increase in testing and contact tracing will allow Texas businesses to remain open as many are now allowed to operate at 50-percent capacity.

Dallas County will be receiving 1,000 more tests a day from the federal government through the end of this month. Jenkins wanted to reassure protestors that their information as well as contact tracing would not be shared with law enforcement.