The D.C. National Guard confirmed Tuesday that multiple members have tested positive for coronavirus following their deployment to respond to protests around the White House in response to the police killing of George Floyd.
A spokeswoman for the Guard told McClatchy that more than one positive case had been confirmed among Guard members, though she did not specify how many.
“We can confirm that we have had COVID-19 positive tests with the DCNG,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brooke Davis, the Guard’s spokeswoman. “The safety and security of our personnel is always a concern, especially in light of the COVID-19 era.”
Those who have tested positive or who are at high risk for the disease will be held back and prevented from being released from their orders until the threat of contagion has passed, Davis continued.
“All Guardsmen who are suspected to be at high risk of infection or have tested positive for COVID-19 during demobilization will not be released from Title 32 orders until risk of infection or illness has passed,” added Davis.
“Members of the Air and Army National Guard with no, or low risk of exposure, who present symptoms of infection one to 14 days after release from orders will contact their unit,” she continued.
The news comes as health officials have warned that large public demonstrations like the ones held in D.C. in recent days carry the risk of further spreading coronavirus at a time when many states are beginning to reopen nonessential businesses.
“It is a difficult situation,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said in an interview with WTOP.
“We have the right to peaceably demonstrate, and the demonstrators are exercising that right … it’s important to exercise your constitutional rights to be able to demonstrate, but it’s a delicate balance, because the reasons for demonstrating are valid. And yet, the demonstration itself puts one at an additional risk.”
Protests have occurred in the city for several days in response to Floyd’s death. A video of Floyd’s arrest showed a white officer, who has since been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.