Idaho doctor discusses possible second wave of COVID-19 from protests


(WEHT) — The U.S. Surgeon General is warning to expect new outbreaks of the coronavirus because of the protests all across the country over the death of George Floyd.

While a majority of protesters have been wearing masks, those large crowds make it difficult to social distance. And that, according to some experts, could possibly lead to a second wave of the virus.

Dr. Jason West, owner of The West Clinic in Idaho, spoke to our Brandon Bartlett about that concern.


Brandon Bartlett: Dr. West. Thanks for joining us tonight. We have gone from staying inside for a month to now seen thousands of people taking to the streets of several cities across the country to protest the death of George Floyd. Is there a concern that those large gatherings could set off a second wave of the Coronavirus?

Dr. Jason West: Well, in a weird way, I mean, I hate the violence and I hate the destruction of personal property the looting but in a weird way, it’s kind of a test for the Coronavirus because it should have some increased areas of infection. If there’s a second wave coming and if the protesters aren’t having these infection rate increases, then maybe it’s time we can open up churches and theaters and football events.

BB: Yeah, if the virus does begin to spread, how long would it be before we know it?

JW: Well, from what I understand from the literature, it’s gonna be two or three weeks. And you know, we’re looking for a dry cough, a fever, an increased, you know, feeling of unwellness. And then hopefully there’s a process where the protesters could get tested if that’s what’s happening, but it’s gonna be a couple weeks.

BB: Well, as you know, these protests come while many cities are reopening, but there is no social distancing during most of these protests, some are wearing face masks, but do you think that those actually help in a situation like that?

JW: I personally have some concerns that they really aren’t that beneficial. And usually what the literature is saying is that they N-95 masks you have the right pore size, the homemade masks or the modified masks, I think the virus is a lot smaller than the pore size and I’m just not convinced that it’s really going to be that helpful.

BB: Okay, well, let’s talk about tear gas. Police have used that on some of the protesters; that makes your eyes water and you usually end up touching your eyes. It also makes you cough. Isn’t that how the virus is spread?

JW: Well it could be and we have to remember is it’s the body trying to get rid of things. So the mucous membranes turn on, you get all the tears coming out, you’re coughing to try and get rid of things. And I’m not so certain that in a weird way, it’s not going to basically push things out. I’m not convinced that it’s really going to make it more susceptible for the infection.

BB: In your opinion, do you think that protesters should be tested for COVID-19?

JW: Well, I just it the whole protesting thing is so I guess emotionally and spiritually confusing to me. Because, yes, I think it was tragic what another human being did to a human being, the protesting, the destruction of property and the rioting and stuff, I don’t see how that really helps. I certainly understand why you would want social reform from this tragedy, from these horrible circumstances. And so for them to get special treatment for testing or anything like that. I don’t see the difference for what they would get tested versus someone else. I just think that there’s more productive ways to create change.

BB: Most of the larger protests that we’ve been seeing are taking place in larger cities. There are some reports that some people from smaller towns are traveling to those larger cities to join in those protests. Is there a fear that those people can be exposed during the protests and then take the Coronavirus back with them to their home city?

JW: Of course there is I mean, if you think about what we were trying to do with flattening the curve, we wanted to minimize the impact or the wave that was going to go into the healthcare system. And if there is protesters that are paying attention, I mean, if you can help your immune system to be healthy, which is water and vitamin C, and vitamin A and vitamin D, zinc and some of these other things, I think would be beneficial. If you want to minimize your impact, at least do some of the things to keep your immune system healthy.

BB: And a majority of the people protesting are African American, and it’s known that the virus affects black Americans more than white Americans. Why is that? And is that a concern?

JW: Well, I think what’s happening is is that is, it’s an example of genetics. You get bad DNA from your mom or your dad and some people, it’s gonna cause autoimmune problems. And in certain populations, it just seems that they’re a little bit more susceptible. And again, what we want to do is to try and help their immune systems be as healthy as possible prior to any exposure, and prior to spreading it to anybody else.

BB: All right, a lot of great advice tonight, Dr. West. Thanks for joining us tonight.

JW: Thank you so much, Brandon, for having me. Stay safe and stay healthy.

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