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Coronavirus outbreak after protests predicted by local health commissioner

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) -- Allen County's health commissioner says she's concerned about the protests downtown, but not necessarily about any chemical agents that were used.

Dr. Deborah McMahan believes the groups could be responsible for a coronavirus outbreak.

"I really look to see a spike in about 10 days," she says.

Dr. McMahan says while she understands people have the right and want to protest, she's concerned the crowds may be a petri dish for COVID-19.

"They're not social distancing and they're not wearing masks, and then on top of it they're yelling, which really expells the virus and really creates a lot of transmission," she says.

She says because most of the protesters she's seen appear to be younger people, she's concerned they could be infected but asymptomatic or have a mild course of it, and then pass it on to others.

"I really look to see a spike in about 10 days," Allen County's health commissioner says.

"I'm sure they're going home to other family members or to the workplace, where other people, who if they get it from them, will have not such an easy course with it," McMahan says.

She says protesters might want to think about those potential ramifications of their actions.

"If you're out there protesting and you get exposed and you acquire the virus, even if you are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms, once you're diagnosed, you have to go into isolation for 14 days. And all the people around you that had close contact with you, which means your family members now, are 14 days," she warns.

She says you should assume you've been exposed to the novel coronavirus, and says if you develop the classic symptoms of a cough, low-grade fever, or difficulty breathing, you need to call your doctor.

After 20 years in the post, Dr. McMahan is retiring.

Her final day as Allen County's health commissioner is Friday.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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