The riots in American cities last week and the week before forced the temporary closure of at least 70 separate coronavirus testing sites nationwide, the White House Coronavirus Task Force was told on Tuesday.
At the Task Force’s meeting on Tuesday at the White House, Admiral Brett Giroir—the assistant secretary for health (ASH)—of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS) informed members of the temporary closures because of the riots.
Two officials present in the meeting also confirmed to Breitbart News that Giroir said 31 of the 70 sites that were temporarily closed because of the riots were shuttered for a full week.
Most of the shuttered sites are back up and running now.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not reply to a request for comment.
This news comes after weeks of mass gatherings at which public health officials have expressed concern that coronavirus could spread.
Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) expressed concern that the riots and protests represent “a perfect setup for further spread” of coronavirus.
“What runs through my mind is what does every time I hear about or see the congregation of large crowds at a time and in an area — a geographic area where clearly there is active infection transmission,” Fauci said in an interview with DC-area radio station WTOP. “It’s a perfect setup for further spread of the virus in the sense of creating these blips, which might turn into some surges. So, I get very concerned, as my colleagues in public health, when they see these kinds of crowds. I mean, obviously, not only are they congregating physically close to each other. But often, when they start screaming and demonstrating, which is part of the process of demonstrating, I’m not criticizing that, but I’m saying what it’s going to be leading to is a likelihood that you might have situations where you would force the spread of infection, and that’s really of concern.”
Fauci had been silent on the unrest and coronavirus before this, but many other officials at the federal, state, and local levels have said they were concerned that the riots and protests could cause a second wave of coronavirus. Complicating matters is that these riots and protests—rife with large crowds—came just as most of the country began reopening.
In an interview just a few days before Memorial Day in Norcross, Georgia, Vice President Mike Pence—the chairman of the White House Coronavirus Task Force—laid out how every state in America is in the reopening process.
“We continue to believe, whether it be on a statewide basis or a regional or county basis, that every state in America is in a position to begin the process of reopening,” Pence told Breitbart News then. “Fortunately, as of this week, all 50 states have begun that process. What we’re committed to doing, whether it be providing supplies for testing, whether it be providing personal protective equipment not just for healthcare workers, but for businesses that are beginning the process of reopening, we’re absolutely committed to being a full partner with states. But the president and I truly believe we [have] got to get this country open again. There are profound costs that go well beyond the economy to a prolonged shutdown. I’ve always believed this was a freedom-loving country. I’m very heartened to see people across the country letting their voice be heard, letting governors in every state know they want their freedom back. What Georgia is demonstrating is people are prepared to continue practicing the hygiene and social distancing necessary to protect their families and their neighbors and members of their community. We’ll continue to urge every state to look at the president’s guidelines to open up America again and look for ways, whether it be a portion of a state or the entire state, to get the economy moving again.”
A huge part of how the White House has gotten the country to this point in battling the pandemic is the testing system that was built out by the Task Force, including most notably Giroir. Giroir, known colloquially as the “testing czar,” previously told Breitbart News that testing is a critical part of properly reopening the country.
Knowing whether reopening is successful, Giroir told Breitbart News in that interview back in mid-April, depends on a number of factors including testing.
“You look for new cases,” Giroir said when asked by Breitbart News how officials will know when a place reopens if it was the right call. “If there’s an upsurge in new cases that can’t be controlled in contact tracing, then it’s the wrong decision. So it’s really—how we know if it’s the right decision depends on the surveillance and the identification of new cases. If you open up an area, and the number of new cases continues to go down or smolder at a low level then that’s great. If you have another big upsurge in cases, you have a real problem on your hands. That’s why the contact tracing and testing is so important. But I think it’s really that simple. If you see them going back up again and you can’t control the spread, you got a big problem on your hands and you got to deal with that. In order to avoid that, that’s why we need good surveillance, good testing, and good contact tracing so you don’t get in that situation.”
But instead of supporting stopping the riots with the National Guard, as President Donald Trump eventually showed he was willing to do in contravention of local and state Democrat officials, several Democrats nationwide by encouraging the large crowds in effect did not just violate social distancing guidelines but also hurt the wide-scale testing system the Trump administration built. After a week of unrest, Trump overrode the mayor of Washington, DC, and called up active-duty military units as well as various National Guard units from other states and deployed them to the nation’s capital to restore order after several days of riots, violence, looting, arson, and property damage in D.C. and around the country. He urged governors and mayors nationwide to surge police presence to calm their cities and states, but many Democrat officials resisted. Those who listened to him, like in Minnesota where it all began when George Floyd was killed, were able to quickly restore order. But, as the White House has said, Trump’s actions did eventually restore order to the country.
“The streets of America didn’t spontaneously become peaceful last week,” Alyssa Farah, the White House Director of Strategic Communications, told Breitbart News on Monday. “It was a direct result of President Trump calling on Governors and Mayors to surge the National Guard in their states and restore law and order on America’s streets so that peaceful protestors could demonstrate safely.”
Democrat governors from Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, California, North Carolina, Virginia, and elsewhere instead in many cases either themselves joined efforts to violate social distancing guidelines by protesting or encouraged it in their states.
For instance, when Pennsylvania’s Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf violated his own public guidelines to join protests, and he later admitted his actions were “inconsistent” with his guidelines.
Michigan’s Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told a local radio show before a protest she later joined that protesters should follow public health guidelines. “I encourage everyone who is protesting, if you are out demonstrating or out congregating at all, please wear a mask and please try to stay six feet away from others,” she said. But then she violated it, did not social distance when she joined protests, and did not keep her mask on the entire time.
New York’s Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, is urging everyone at any protest to go get tested for coronavirus because the protests possibly exposed them to the disease. “I’m asking the protesters please go get a test. It’s free, it’s available,” Cuomo said.
It remains to be seen if the pandemic will see a resurgence because of the unrest around the country. Data from Minnesota, the earliest and most consistent place of large protests and gatherings, however, suggests a decline in the number of cases and percentage of positive tests.