Top health officials monitoring nationwide protests in fear of coronavirus spread

Healthcare workers place a nasal swab from a patient into a tube for testing at the Brightpoint Health and UJA-Federation of New York free pop-up coronavirus (COVID-19) testing site on May 8, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. - The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 8, 2020 approved the first diagnostic test for coronavirus using saliva samples collected at home. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Health officials have raised concern about coronavirus spread as thousands of people are now braving a pandemic to participate in the national protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday it was closely monitoring the demonstrations taking place across the US and warned such gatherings could spur coronavirus transmission. Some states are already seeing upward trends of new cases.

For three months, the country passed one grim milestone after the other, hitting 100,000 coronavirus deaths in late May. Public health officials have said without the lockdowns that most states put in place, that death toll could have been significantly higher.

As those lockdowns were lifted and other measures were loosened, the CDC and other top health officials urged Americans to use face coverings when they go out and always maintain a distance.

But the large protests make it hard to keep the recommended social distancing guidelines and “may put others at risk,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said in a statement.

“It is too early to know what, if any, effect these events will have on the federal Covid-19 response. Every local situation is different. State and local officials will make decisions to protect public health and safety based on circumstances on the ground,” she said.

Earlier this month, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said protesters should be evaluated and tested for the virus.

“I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” he said — especially in metropolitan areas where there has been significant transmission.

So far, more than 1,942,000 people have been infected in the US and at least 110,514 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

While the early parts of the outbreak in the country hit dense metropolitan areas on the coast the hardest — including California and New York — the past few weeks have seen wider spread in inland states, including Arkansas, Texas and Arizona.

In Harris County, Texas, health officials said they identified a nursing home with both cases of the virus and deaths.

On Friday, health officials in Utah said they were “very concerned” about the rise in new cases over the past week.

The state has recorded more than 12,000 infections, according to Johns Hopkins.

“When you’re away from home, please avoid close contact with others, and wear a mask when other social distancing measures aren’t feasible,” the Utah Department of Health said on Twitter.

Utah State Rep. Suzanne Harrison called the spike of cases “very concerning (and) approaching exponential.”

“Today’s 18.5% positive test rate is double yesterday’s (9.4%),” she tweeted over the weekend. “Please be careful. Practice social distancing. Avoid crowds. Use masks where appropriate. Wash your hands.”

Several universities have also reported new cases within their athletic programs — including Arkansas State, Auburn University and Oklahoma State University.

Meanwhile, as officials emphasize the US is not yet out of the woods, a government official gave a stark warning.

The US government’s current supply of remdesivir, the only drug known to work against coronavirus, will run out at the end of the month, Dr. Robert Kadlec, a US Department of Health and Human Services official, told CNN.

The government’s last shipment of the drug will go out the week of June 29. Gilead Sciences, the company that makes the drug, is ramping up to make more but it’s unclear how much will be available this summer.

The US Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for remdesivir last month. The drug, an intravenous antiviral medication studied to treat Ebola, is now used on hospitalized Covid patients. A study has shown it helps cut down the length of hospital stays.

The government has been working to help Gilead “with some of their supply chain challenges in terms of raw materials and being able to accelerate the process,” Kadlec said.

“Whatever the supply may be, there may not be enough for everyone who may need it,” he said.