Lawrence protest participant tests positive for COVID-19; health department asks protest participants to self-monitor for symptoms

photo by: August Rudisell/Contributed Photo

Protesters make their way down Massachusetts Street during a march against police brutality on May 31, 2020.

Story updated at 5:10 p.m. Friday

A participant in Lawrence’s protest against police brutality Sunday has tested positive for COVID-19, the health department said in a news release Friday afternoon. The protest attendee was not wearing a mask during the event that attracted thousands of people to downtown.

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health asks that everyone who attended the protest self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.

“Similar to what we would ask anyone who goes out in public right now, we are asking anyone who attended the recent protest to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate if they become sick as well as call their healthcare provider for next steps,” Sonia Jordan, informatics director, said in the release.

The person’s sample was taken on Thursday, and Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health epidemiology staff was notified of the positive test on Friday. The patient disclosed during the contact tracing and disease-investigation process that he was not wearing a mask. A large portion of participants at the march were wearing masks throughout the evening, the Journal-World observed.

Symptoms of COVID-19, which can include fever, chills, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, a sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Monday, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Director Dan Partridge answered questions from the Journal-World about how the protest could affect COVID-19 cases in the county.

When asked if he was concerned that Douglas County might see a spike in cases following the protest, Partridge said that the county was prepared to handle whatever may come in the future. He also said he believed the health department had a good system in place for handling contact tracing of any potential outbreaks in Douglas County.

Also on Friday, LMH Health announced that a contracted associate with the hospital had tested positive for COVID-19. This contracted associate is a different case than the aforementioned protest attendee, according to George Diepenbrock, a health department spokesperson.

The contracted associate was exposed to the virus outside the hospital, according to a news release from LMH Health, and that person did not experience any COVID-19 symptoms until after the conclusion of their shift. The contracted associate also did not have any direct patient contact, the release said.

LMH Health said it is in the process of contacting “a small number of staff” who may have come into contact with the contracted associate, and the hospital said those who were potentially exposed have been placed in a two-week quarantine.

“There have been a number of instances of COVID-19 diagnoses among workers in the healthcare setting throughout the region, and this can be concerning for our employees, patients and community members,” LMH Health President and CEO Russ Johnson said in the release. “We take significant steps to protect all staff and providers, but COVID-19 presents a unique and difficult challenge when it comes to infection prevention. In this case, the specific and new policies we put into place prevented exposure to patients, and we are grateful to our infectious disease team for the extraordinary guidance they have provided throughout this pandemic.”

Douglas County has reported 70 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, local officials said Friday — an increase of one case since Thursday.

In Douglas County, 67 out of the 70 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have recovered, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health said in its daily update.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s online map noted that 3,772 Douglas County residents have been tested for the disease so far. The county’s testing rate per 1,000 people was 30.9.

No patients at Lawrence’s hospital had COVID-19 on Friday, according to a release from LMH Health.


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