Julio V. Torres, East Lampeter, Pennsylvania man participating in George Floyd protests stokes health concerns after admitting to testing positive for COVID-19. Wanton disregard.
A Pennsylvania man arrested protesting over the death of George Floyd has caused disconcert after admitting he’d tested positive for coronavirus. Officials now worry he may have sparked an outbreak of the disease.
The 22-year-old had been told to self-quarantine only to defy health orders and attend a 250-person demonstration in Lancaster on Monday evening. While in attendance, Julio Torres declined wearing a mask or practicing social distancing.
‘[He] has placed other people at risk — both the public who were peacefully participating in the protest and law enforcement,’ Lancaster County President Judge David Ashworth was cited saying. ‘I know of no other way to get the word out.’
Police said they haven’t confirmed that Torres tested positive, but he told a district judge and prison staff of his diagnosis.
‘If it’s all made up on his part, then it is. All we can do is act on his word. He has told a number of officials now that he is positive,’ Ashworth said.
It remained unclear if Torres had intentionally sought to infect others or was apathetic to the possibility whether he may or may not.
Charging documents allege that during the protest in front of a police station, Torres threw ‘objects which could cause bodily harm at police officers’ and spoke to others in the crowd ‘appearing to be directing their action.’
He’s also accused of hurling a barricade into the middle of the street.
‘These actions taken by Torres were done with the intent to prevent or coerce official action and then with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm,’ charging documents stated.
News of Torres’ arrest stoked health officials concerns that protesters risked infecting not only other protesters but police responding to unruly protesters.
‘This is the worst possible thing that could happen,’ said Dr Howard Markel, director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and an expert on pandemics. ‘It’s hard to know how many of those people are asymptomatic carriers, and that’s really scary.’
Torres remained held in Lancaster County Prison after being unable to post 10 percent of his $25,000 bail, court records show.
Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace said she was ‘very worried about an outbreak following days of demonstrations.’
She said the state Department of Health has said contact tracing is ineffective if people were exposed at large gatherings. But she was monitoring any uptick in cases 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.’