Protesters not worried about COVID-19; been fighting another virus for decades

Last updated: 06-08-2020

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Protesters not worried about COVID-19; been fighting another virus for decades

OMAHA, Neb. —

The combination of a historic number of arrests and a pandemic, Douglas County Corrections is concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in the community and in the jail.

"I am concerned about the masses of people gathered closely together, the behaviors, the shouting and breathing on each other at close proximity," said Michael Myers, Director of Corrections.

Myers concerns come from seeing the 4,000 demonstrators, Saturday night alone in the Old Market are not practicing social distancing and some not wearing masks.

Myers said they booked a record number of people last weekend.

"Just that mass of influx of people, obviously someone who has it (COVID-19), has come in the last few days and statistically, probably a few of them have had it," Myers said.

In early March, Myers brought in infectious disease experts and built a separate, quarantine unit to isolate the spread. It's worked. Not one inmate has tested positive.

Three staff members have had COVID-19. Two are back to work.

But protesters say the cause is bigger than the COVID-19 crisis.

"I am to an extent worried about COVID, but I am not worried about COVID right now. I want to get justice for my friend," said Kimana Barnett, who was arrested last weekend for violating curfew.

Board of Health President, Chris Rodgers said he's concerned about the spread, but said there's another virus people of color have been fighting for years.

"We've had a history of fighting greater risks than this and this is serious, but this inequality and fighting the system is a whole other level," he said.

Rodgers encourages protesters to wear masks and wash their hands.

"There's no way I can honestly go with somebody fighting for a cause that generations before me have and say, 'Nah, don't do it because of COVID, " he said.

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