ATLANTA - For more than two weeks, thousands of people have lined the streets of Atlanta, demanding an end to police misconduct and systemic racism, protesting in the middle of a pandemic.
"It felt like getting out there, and being in that large group of people, it felt like it needed to be done," says Georgia Tech grad Zeya Luo.
When Luo first heard about the massive protests, she says, she was hesitant to join the crowds, worried about contracting the novel coronavirus.
She had spent the past two months going to work and then going home, avoiding public places.
"I haven't been going to bars," Luo says. "I stopped going to my gym. But, when people started going out to protest, it felt essential, honestly. Like, it felt like people need to be out here doing this."
Luo recently came to Atlanta's Little Five Points Arts and Community Center, where the non-profit CORE Response was holding a mobile COVID-19 testing site.
Site manager Emma Aberle-Grasse says CORE is partnering with the Fulton County Board of Health offer free testing to anyone who wants to be screened, symptomatic or non.
Their hope, she says, was to reach as many protest participants as possible.
"It is a self-administered test," Aberle-Grasse says. "So, you need to be capable of swabbing your own nostril. It's a shallow nasal swab, so it only goes about three-quarters of an inch into your nostril, and it's not painful."
Luo says over 90% of the protestors she saw when she was marching were wearing masks, and she also took a lot of precautions.
"I was doubled up on masks, and I just tried to keep my distance from other protestors," she says. "I had hand sanitizer on me, and I just physically didn't touch anybody."
Because the protests are primarily outdoors, health experts say the risk of contracting the virus is lower than it would be at an indoor event.
Still, it's not zero.
They're urging marchers to wear cotton face masks, use hand sanitizer and keep their distance from other people around them.
Aberle-Grasse recommends anyone who is going out into large crowds right now be tested regularly.
CORE was able to test 274 people on the day we visited the Little Five Points site.
It typically takes two to three business days to receive tests results.
Zeya Luo wants to make sure she can make her voice heard -- without putting anyone around her at risk.
"If I get tested, and I come back positive, I need to do my due diligence and tell my employers, "Hey, I got tested, I'm positive, and I need to quarantine myself for two weeks,'" Luo says. "So, I don't infect my colleagues."
For more information on CORE Response's drive-up and walk-in testing sites, visit coreresponse.org.
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