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Stay-home protesters could set back efforts to reduce coronavirus spread, health officials say

"What we're doing today will show up in two weeks just like it did with Mardi Gras but on a smaller level," Dr. Payal Kohli said.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Health experts are warning that the growing number of protests across the country calling for the reopening of the country could have adverse impacts in preventing further spread of the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Payal Kohli, a cardiology specialist in Denver, calls the demonstrations spreader events that are prone to be hot spots for infection of COVID-19.

"What we're doing today will show up in two weeks just like it did with Mardi Gras but on a smaller level," Dr. Kohli said. "You have this event where all these people gather, and then you see the impact."

Monday's event, which attracted hundreds of people and caused traffic around the Capitol in downtown Sacramento, was approved by California Highway Patrol based on the understanding that protesters would practice social distancing.

RELATED: CHP to deny all event permits at state Capitol following stay-at-home protest

However, many of the protesters got out of their vehicles and gathered in crowds, without practicing social distancing or wearing face coverings.

The CHP made no arrests and issued no citations at Monday’s demonstration.

On Tuesday, the CHP announced that it would begin denying all event permits at state facilities, including the Capitol, until public health orders to stay home are lifted.

The impact on spread at large events is understandably difficult to visualize.

Researchers at University of Washington worked on a study to show how the virus can spread to so many people by visiting just one friend. Their diagrams show the impacts in a hypothetical community of 200 households.

"If you can imagine in your household there are a couple of people who each have one friend, so you can see those two friends but 71% of your community is connected and you don't see that 71%," explained University of Washington professor Martina Morris. "That's the invisible part we're trying to make visible."

RELATED: Hundreds protest stay-at-home order at California Capitol

Now think of the effects of hundreds coming together like in these protests. Dr. Kohli says the virus can be in the air for up to three hours. It can travel farther with wind and if people are yelling.

The possible effects are something to be aware of even if you're just walking by the area.

"[Virus particles] travel father, and some studies from MIT have shown the droplets, especially ones ejected at high velocity like when you're yelling, can travel up to 26 feet," Dr. Kohli said.

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Ananda Rochita.


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WATCH MORE: Governor Newsom gives an update on California's coronavirus (COVID-19) response | April 21, 2020