LINCOLN — As protests in response to the killing of George Floyd continue, there is concern about a potential spike in COVID-19 cases among those protesting, Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said Tuesday.
"Of course, public health officials are concerned; I'm concerned," Gaylor Baird said. "We have limitations on gatherings of people in confined indoor and outdoor spaces to try and protect people from close contact. We know as well that communities of color are being disproportionately impacted by this disease right here in Lincoln.
"So the idea that folks (who) have important messages that they should get out, and that their voices need to be heard, may be subjecting themselves to further threats is absolutely painful for all of us to consider."
It's a fine line for both protesters and the city to walk, as Gaylor Baird on Tuesday lifted the curfew that had been in place the previous two nights as rioting related to the protests decreased.
Those who do choose to protest, she said, should keep their health in mind as well.
"We know that they're aware; they're making informed choices," the mayor said. "So we are encouraging anyone who goes to a rally to please wear a face mask (and) try to keep some distance between yourself and others so that everyone can stay safe tonight and in the coming weeks."
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department announced 17 new lab-confirmed cases in Lincoln on Tuesday, bringing the total in the city to 1,245.
The cases came after a total of 70 positive tests Saturday and Sunday, and 16 more Monday, interim health director Pat Lopez said, with no new deaths reported.
The number of people who had recovered was up to 195, up 32 from Saturday.
Lopez said Test Nebraska completed 1,585 tests last week, its most in a week since arriving in Lancaster County.
Also Tuesday, Lopez announced the creation of a tool for event planners utilizing venues with a capacity of greater than 500.
The event plan application, on the city's COVID-19 website, will "help businesses form a safety plan," she said.
Once that application is submitted, Lopez said, the health department will work with the event organizers "to provide guidance for any changes that may be needed to ensure all workers and attendees are safe."
Tuesday was the first of two coronavirus briefings scheduled for this week. The other is set for Friday.