Cities Are Shutting Down Covid-19 Testing Because of Protests

Hampering coronavirus testing could make the pandemic harder to control

Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog
3 min readJun 3, 2020

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Ira L. Black-Corbis/Getty Images

Thousands of people took to the streets this week to protest the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. In some cities, rioting and looting occurred alongside the protests, leaving windows smashed in and buildings vandalized. Officials in some of those cities responded by shutting down coronavirus testing sites.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti closed testing sites on Saturday. The city’s health services director, Christina Ghaly, said the protests were affecting public safety. While some sites reopened Tuesday, many were closed again on Wednesday due to “curfews during the recent civil unrest,” as Los Angeles County’s Covid-19 website read.

On Monday, the Illinois Department of Public Health shut down all state-run testing sites. Illinois Emergency Management Agency director Alicia Tate-Nadeau, who ordered the closure, said the move was to “protect staff and those utilizing these services.” The sites remained closed Tuesday, reported NBC Chicago, noting that part of the reason for the closure was the “re-assignment of National Guard soldiers, who are helping law enforcement agencies across the state deal with civil unrest and looting.”

Some sites were also closed in Florida on Sunday and Monday due to the unrest.

Widespread testing for Covid-19 is considered one of the most effective tools in controlling the pandemic. Knowing who’s infected can help public officials track where the disease is spreading and who is most at risk, and people who test positive for Covid-19 can self-isolate to avoid spreading the disease to others. Testing is especially important because it’s possible to be infected with Covid-19 but be asymptomatic. If asymptomatic people don’t know they’re infected, they may continue to walk around and spread the virus.

Some Twitter users condemned the shutdown of testing centers in L.A. as “punitive” and “irresponsible” because of the well-established role of testing in controlling the spread of Covid-19. One user accused Chicago’s mayor of “trying to kill us.”

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Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog. Senior editor at Future Human by OneZero. Previously: science at Inverse, genetics at NYU.