Suddenly, Public Health Officials Say Social Justice Matters More Than Social Distance

Jun 5, 2020

For months, public health experts have urged Americans to take every precaution to stop the spread of Covid-19—stay at home, steer clear of friends and extended family, and absolutely avoid large gatherings.

Now some of those experts are broadcasting a new message: It’s time to get out of the house and join the mass protests against racism.

“We should always evaluate the risks and benefits of efforts to control the virus,” Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, tweeted on Tuesday. “In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.”

“The injustice that’s evident to everyone right now needs to be addressed,” Abraar Karan, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital physician who’s exhorted coronavirus experts to amplify the protests’ anti-racist message, told me. “While I have voiced concerns that protests risk creating more outbreaks, the status quo wasn’t going to stop #covid19 either,” he wrote on Twitter this week.

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