State health officials are offering free COVID-19 testing to protestors who attended demonstrations over George Floyd's death in recent weeks.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker said the state is opening 50 "pop-up" testing sites for people who are concerned that they got infected while attending protests in Boston and across the state. He encouraged protesters to get tested, even if they're not showing any symptoms of the virus.
"Thousands of people have been congregating in large groups over the past several weeks to exercise their first amendment rights," Baker said at Monday's briefing. "We certainly support people’s rights to express their views peacefully. But we need to keep up our fight to slow the spread of COVID-19."
The protests, sparked by the Memorial Day killing of Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis and other recent instances of violence against black Americans, have drawn huge crowds to rallies in big cities and small towns, even as concerns about spreading the coronavirus lingered.
Health experts are worried that a second wave of COVID-19 infections could be sparked by the mass gatherings.
Because most people who are infected with coronavirus develop symptoms within 14 days of being infected and can spread the disease days before they feel sick, there is a small window to get tested, health officials said.
Baker said the latest data on the COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts is "trending in the right direction" with declining numbers of infections and deaths.
As of Sunday, the total number of coronavirus cases in the state was 101,276, with the death toll at 7,467.
"Our progress to date is encouraging, but it doesn’t mean the virus has left town," he said. "If you’re healthy and feeling fine, you should consider getting tested anyway."
For more information on COVID-19 testing: https://www.mass.gov/gettested.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.