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No evidence of connection between protests and COVID-19 case increase, says health department

In a Monday press conference, the Knox County Health Department said contact tracing has not shown any evidence of a connection between large protests and increased cases in the counties.
Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 2:51 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2020 at 7:39 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - In a Monday press conference, the Knox County Health Department said contact tracing has not shown any evidence of a connection between large protests and increased cases in the county.

However, Dr. Martha Buchannan said researchers have connected several positive Knox County cases to parties and other large gatherings where the attendees did not practice social distancing.

“We have not seen any links to protests, we’ve seen links to parties and other large social gatherings, but not to protests,” said Dr. Buchannan.

In an early June interview with WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he was concerned that protests and demonstrations could lead to more cases of the virus.

“So many people gathered so close together for a prolonged period of time, and they’re chanting and shouting, and expressing themselves. I’m afraid that’s an environment where the virus could really spread,” Dr. William Schaffner said.

Dr. Schaffner, who is the current Medical Director and past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said he was encouraged to see many people wearing masks and said gatherings outdoors reduces risk.

"I anticipate that here or there, perhaps not everywhere, there might be an increase in covert infections, as a consequence of these demonstrations, which are going on night after night after night," said Dr. Schaffner.

He said he expected Tennessee to be less affected than many other areas of the country.

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