A rally in Des Moines. (IPR photo)

Racial justice protests across Iowa are drawing crowds of hundreds, sometimes thousands, which could mean an increased risk for spreading COVID-19.

Rachel Reimer, chair of the Department of Public Health at Des Moines University, says people who chose to attend protests need to remember the coronavirus is still a public health threat. “Going to events where the organizers have tried to delineate the physical space in some way is probably the best way to do it, and to limit your time there,” Reimer says. “So, going and participating for a shorter amount of time will reduce your exposure.”

Health experts still recommend people practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. Eli Perencevich, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa, says it’ll be a few weeks before we see what impact the protests have had on the spread of COVID-19. He says it’s beneficial the rallies are taking place outdoors.

“We think there’s less risk for transmission outside, particularly if people are moving around, but a lot of the protests have been kind of large crowds standing in one place,” he says. “So, it’s possible that there could be some spread.” Perencevich says wearing a mask during events will also help reduce the spread of the virus.

(By Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio)