National Guard COVID-19 Diagnoses After Protests Are 'Disturbing' Sign, Fauci Says

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Dr. Anthony Fauc listens as President Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens as President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, May 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

One of the nation's top medical advisers on the U.S. response to the novel coronavirus pandemic said seeing troops test positive for COVID-19 after responding to protests is a likely sign more cases will emerge.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that news of National Guard members in Washington, D.C., getting infected with the illness caused by the coronavirus while activated to respond to massive protests in the city in recent weeks is "disturbing, but is not surprising."

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An undisclosed number of the roughly 1,200 D.C. Guard members sent to respond to the sometimes-violent protests now have COVID-19, McClatchy reported Tuesday. Two members of the Nebraska National Guard, who assisted police in their state capital, have also tested positive for the illness, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

Fauci said he expects to see more infections as people continue gathering for large protests across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis last month after a police officer was seen pressing his knee into Floyd's neck for several minutes. There were more than 10,000 protesters in Washington, D.C., on Saturday before National Guard members responding in that city began to leave.

"That's taking a risk," Fauci said of the crowd sizes on "Good Morning America," "and unfortunately what we're seeing now is just an example of the kinds of things we were concerned about."

Fauci this week called the coronavirus pandemic his "worst nightmare" when speaking during the Biotechnology Innovation Organization's international convention. In a period of just four months, he added, the disease has devastated the world.

"It just took over the planet," he said in a video address to the conference. "And it isn't over yet."

Fauci stressed that people must continue wearing masks, keeping their distance from others, and washing their hands as often as they can. The pandemic has infected more than 7 million people globally and killed about 112,000 Americans.

Navy leaders said Tuesday that a study conducted in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed face coverings and social distancing proved to help lower infection rates on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. There were more than 1,200 COVID-19 cases on that ship.

Photos of National Guard members' response to the recent protests showed not all personnel have been wearing face coverings. Their duties in some cases also left them in close contact with protesters.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: DC Guard Members Test Positive for COVID After Protests

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