Should Protesters Get Tested For COVID-19?

Photo by Bob Vosseller

  OCEAN COUNTY – The state had been on lockdown for weeks and weeks. Nothing but essential businesses. No large gatherings. But what about protests?

  There have been several protests in the area recently. In Toms River and Freehold, people protested racism in general and the murder of George Floyd in particular. In Point Pleasant Beach, people protested the state’s continued lockdown.

  Most people in the Toms River gathering were wearing face coverings. There were about 300 people there. In Freehold, the ground was marked every six feet so that the protesters could practice social distancing. There were about 40 people there.

  “Any individual that neglects to adhere to social distancing measures – including wearing a face covering – can certainly put themselves at risk for infection when out in public places for any reason,” said Brian Lippai, spokesman for the Ocean County Health Department.

  “The NJDOH recently recommended that NJ residents consider getting a COVID-19 diagnostic test to determine if they are infected. There are now more than 200 testing sites in NJ. In many instances you may need a doctor’s order (such as the drive thru site at Ocean County College) while other sites do not,” he continued.

  “If a person feels that they may have been exposed to a close contact but aren’t sick should self-monitor and keep an eye out for symptoms,” he said.

  Reportedly, about a thousand people attended the Point Beach rally on Memorial Day. Many were not wearing masks nor were they social distancing. The protest was organized on Facebook by a group called ReopenNJ, who have been pushing for Gov. Phil Murphy to lift restrictions regarding social distancing and closing non-essential businesses.

  Donna Leusner, Director of Communications for the NJ Department of Health said that people at the protest should consider keeping an eye on their own health, and look out for symptoms of COVID-19 (which include fever, cough or shortness of breath) two weeks after possible contamination.

  While there was a protester who told a reporter he had coronavirus, the state has no way of knowing if this is true or if he had prolonged close contact with anyone else there, she said.

  “Regardless, those at the protest still should take precautions regarding face coverings, social distancing, hygiene, etc., and should consider self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19,” she said.

  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that for some people the symptoms are like having a cold. For others they are quite severe or life threatening.