Should protesters be worried about COVID-19? State health director weighs in

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As North Carolina continues to reopen, we asked Dr. Betsey Tilson, the state health director, a few questions Wednesday in wake of the recent civil unrest and protests that have largely thrown coronavirus cautions to the wind.

Tilson also talked about the Republican National Convention, which now seems almost certain not to take place in Charlotte as originally scheduled.

A partial transcript follows. Watch the video in the media player above for her full responses.

Not a lot of social distancing is going on with the protests and social unrest we are seeing. Are you worried about an uptick in COVID-19 cases?

I do want to give honor and space for the reason that people are out protesting ... we have talked about the pandemic has shone a spotlight on our historic injustices and inequities, and I think this is another example of people really reflecting and reacting to that history of social injustice. ... but yes, when you have people together, especially people who are yelling or chanting or having that increased chance of respiratory effort, there is an increased risk of spreading respiratory droplets. So, what we are recommending is, yes, express your freedom of expression, yes, speak out against longstanding social injustice, but as much as possible, think, care for the people around you ... that means wearing a face-covering ... and stay six feet away.

ALSO SEE: Tracking North Carolina COVID-19 cases

If you attended a protest during the past few days, should you call your doctor about getting a COVID-19 test?

There's not necessarily a known exposure for that, so I wouldn't necessarily say because I was at the protest, I need a test. But I think I would definitely be on high alert for symptoms, and also to try to decrease the amount of exposure you're having to other people after one of those protests.

What are your thoughts about the health concerns raised by Gov. Roy Cooper around the holding of a full Republican National Convention in Charlotte?

We are continuing to work on what that might look like in terms of a safe event, and we are continuing to try to come to a place where we can have that event in a safe way. So, from our side, we're continuing to work and plan and want to partner on how we can make this a safe event for everybody.

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