Health Officials Fear Mixing Tear Gas With COVID

Police again fired gas at protesters on June 2.

Multnomah County health officials called on protesters to take extra health precautions when attending protests, which could become major spreading events for COVID-19.

"Mass gatherings, like the kind we're seeing, were one of the first things that public health asked people to refrain from knowing that people mixing closely in large groups is a very effective way of spreading this virus, especially if there's coughing," tri-county public health officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said during a Monday night press conference.

She added that tear gas-induced coughing could increase the risk of spreading the virus. "Anything that irritates the upper airway is not going to be helpful. I'm definitely concerned at anybody coughing in close proximity to others."

As any reporter covering Portland's protests in the past five nights can attest, there's been a lot of tear gas. June 2 was no exception, with Portland police officers firing tear-gas canisters and stun grenades at protesters who approached a fence surrounding downtown courthouses.

Video by Sergio Olmos.

Multnomah County public health director Rachael Banks urged protesters to carry hand sanitizer, always wear a face covering, and maintain 6 feet of social distance from others.

"While we're in a moment right now where we're fighting a respiratory pandemic, one in which shortness of breath and the inability to breath is a signature symptom," Banks said, "we're also in a moment where we horrifically watched the video of George Floyd yelling out, 'I can't breathe.'"

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