The organizer behind several protests at South Carolina’s State House is urging people who have participated to get tested for COVID-19.
Several protesters at the marches in downtown Columbia — in addition to similar events in Charleston and Greenville — have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to organizer Lawrence Nathaniel.
“We are asking you please go get tested immediately,” Nathaniel said Sunday on Facebook.
Anyone who was at any of the events between May 30 and June 17 should get a COVID-19 test, Nathaniel said.
Four organizers of the I Can’t Breathe SC protests confirmed they tested positive, along with at least six protesters, and three photographers, Nathaniel said in a video.
“We need to do our part,” Nathaniel said. “Go get tested. Don’t come to a protest until you get tested.”
Nathaniel said he has been tested and is in the 48-hour waiting period to learn the results.
The confirmed cases of the coronavirus forced Nathaniel’s organization to postpone plans for several upcoming protests. That included Sunday’s art project on Main Street called Chalk the Streets.
Nathaniel said 12 of the artists scheduled to work on specific portions of the project backed out Sunday morning, including two who contacted him at 2 a.m. to inform him they tested positive for COVID-19.
Plans for the art project are being put on hold for at least two weeks, or “until coronavirus cases drop,” Nathaniel said on Facebook.
In response to a comment that the coronavirus pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down, Nathaniel said canceling Sunday’s plans was a sacrifice for the greater good, and he’s holding off on all large-scale events.
“It’s time that we must step up our game. What are we doing to step up our game? We’re canceling all our protests,” Nathaniel said. That includes an event that was scheduled for next Saturday, dubbed the “Take Down the Statue” protest.
While Nathaniel said a spike in COVID-19 cases was expected, these steps are being taken because recent data has shown younger people are testing positive at a higher rate than ever in South Carolina. He also said Black people are testing positive at rates that are disproportionately high compared to their share of the state’s population.
Data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control shows Black people make up 36% of the confirmed coronavirus cases in South Carolina. At the same time, 46% of the people who have died from the virus are Black, DHEC’s data shows.
About 27% of the state’s overall population is Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
More activism will be moved to virtual settings online, according to Nathaniel. He also encouraged followers to watch the I Can’t Breathe page for updates on sites where free testing will be made available.
He also told people to wear masks, use hand sanitizer, and wash their hands in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“Together we can win this. We can win this battle against COVID-19 and against racism,” Nathaniel said. “Stay safe out there.”
On Sunday, 907 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in South Carolina by DHEC, bringing the overall total to 24,661 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Of the new COVID-19 cases, DHEC said 33 were reported in Richland County, where 2,662 positive tests have been confirmed since March — second most in the state behind Greenville County’s 3,669 positive tests.
Overall, 653 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in South Carolina, with a state-high 79 in Richland County, according to health officials.
As of Sunday afternoon, 8,827,934 people worldwide have been diagnosed with coronavirus and 464,973 people have died, and 4,385,705 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States leads the world with 2,260,972 people who have been diagnosed with the novel virus. In the U.S., 119,762 deaths have been reported, including 31,083 in New York City.