A man from Pennsylvania who was arrested while taking part in a violent protest over the death of George Floyd says he has been infected with COVID-19 – and experts now believe he may have sparked a massive outbreak at the demonstrations.
Julio V. Torres, 22, revealed that he had coronavirus while under custody for charges of aggravated assault, rioting, and resisting arrest, according to Lancaster Online.
He had been told to self-isolate, but still took part in a 250-strong protest in Lancaster last Monday, without wearing a protective mask.
“[He] has placed other people at risk — both the public who were peacefully participating in the protest and law enforcement,” said Lancaster County President Judge David Ashworth, while addressing the press.
“I know of no other way to get the word out,” he added.
Wanton disregard: COVID-19 protester arrested for not practicing social distancing or wearing face mask https://t.co/X7GnGJv6l1 #Julio V. Torres #East Lampeter protester #Lancaster protester #protests2020 #GeorgeFloydProtests #coronavirus #COVID-19 #Julio Torress
— Scallywagandvagabond (@ScallywagNYC) June 4, 2020
Authorities said they have no confirmation of Torres being positive for COVID-19, but he confessed to prison workers and a district judge.
“If it’s all made up on his part, then it is. All we can do is act on his word. He has told a number of officials now that he is positive,” Ashworth said.
Documents describing Torres’ part in the protest say that he threw “objects which could cause bodily harm at police officers” and talked to other people in the crowd “appearing to be directing their action.”
In addition, he is accused of throwing a barricade into the street.
“These actions taken by Torres were done with the intent to prevent or coerce official action and then with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm,” the documents read.
Torres was put in Lancaster’s County Prison after he was not able to pay 10% of his $25,000 bail, as per court records.
Mayor Danene Sorace told the publication recently that she was “very worried about an outbreak following days of demonstrations.”
Sorace said the state Department of Health has stressed that contact tracing is not an effective option if people were infected at large gatherings. However, she was keeping track of any rise in cases for the next two weeks.
“While it has been shown that young people seem less susceptible to severe symptoms, I worry about others they come into close contact with, especially their families,” She said. “Wear a mask. Self-isolate. Get tested if you have symptoms.”
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