A man who said he has COVID-19 after he was arrested Monday during a protest in downtown Lancaster is raising concerns about the potential spread to others who were at the demonstration.
“I am very worried about an outbreak following days of demonstrations,” Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace said in an email Tuesday afternoon.
She said the state Department of Health has said contact tracing is ineffective if people were exposed at large gatherings.
Lancaster County President Judge David Ashworth reached out to LNP | LancasterOnline on Tuesday about the man, Julio V. Torres, 22, of East Lampeter Township.
“I am very concerned that the public and law enforcement has been placed at risk,” Ashworth said of the reason he contacted the media. “I know of no other way to get the word out.”
Police said about 250 people were at Monday night’s protest.
Lancaster City Police Lt. Bill Hickey said in an email that the department's COVID-19 protocols have not changed: "Gloves, masks, washing, disinfecting areas and internal procedures for possible exposures."
Sorace said she has asked the system to alert her to any upticks over the next two weeks.
“While it has been shown that young people seem less susceptible to severe symptoms, I worry about others they come into close contact with, especially their families,” Sorace said. “Wear a mask. Self-isolate. Get tested if you have symptoms.”
“We certainly know that more people in closer proximity to each other, particularly if they are coughing or otherwise affected from a respiratory standpoint, could increase the risk of exposure,” state Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle said in an email. “Being outdoors does in general situations decrease the risk of exposure, but not if a number of people are very close together.”
Dr. Jeff Martin, chair of family and community medicine at Lancaster General Health, said in an emailed statement that the virus “is transmitted most efficiently in large gatherings and a few contagious people can infect many people around them.”
“While wearing a mask will help minimize exposure, it won't completely eliminate risk,” Martin wrote, noting that large crowds make contact tracing nearly impossible. “Engaging in any large gatherings without proper social distancing puts attendees at risk of exposure and infection.”
From the CDC: How to Protect Yourself & Others