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Tips for staying safe while protesting

Protesters in a street, wearing masks and carrying signs.

The country is caught in the middle of two tumultuous events with competing demands. On the one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic asks that people distance themselves from each other. On the other hand, protests against racial inequality have people gathering together in mass groups.

If you want to take part in protests, you’ll have to accept that you’re risking a potential infection with COVID-19. But there are actions you can take to reduce that increased risk.

First, however, check your own health. Don’t take part in community protests if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or have recently been exposed to someone with the virus. Do yourself and others the favor by staying home.

If you are healthy, here are some suggestions for reducing the potential spread of COVID-19 while exercising your First Amendment rights:

  • If possible, check in advance with the organizers of the event. Ask if they will be taking any steps to prevent virus spread.
  • Wear a face mask at all times. Be sure it covers your nose and mouth. Bring along a few extra face masks to give to others who might need one.
  • Strongly consider wearing goggles or other eye protection as an additional safeguard.
  • Bring along a container of hand sanitizer. It should contain at least 60% alcohol. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Cover all surfaces of your hands, and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Also bring your own water. Don’t share drinks with anyone.
  • Avoid carrying or touching other people’s signs.
  • Try to stay 6 feet away from other people as much as possible.
  • Try to avoid crowded activities that involve shouting, chanting or singing in close proximity to others.
  • Stay away from people who aren’t wearing face masks.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Plan an exit route in case physical distancing becomes impossible.
  • Don’t shake hands, bump elbows or give hugs or high-fives to anyone. If you forget and touch someone, wash your hands right away.
  • Wash your hands immediately before eating food or after touching any shared surfaces, such as handrails or doorknobs.

When you return home

You should wash your hands thoroughly when you leave the event.

Monitor yourself for any symptoms of COVID-19 for two weeks after the protest. If you develop even mild symptoms, self-isolate. Call your doctor and ask to be tested for COVID-19.

If you find out that people with whom you had close contact at the event are diagnosed with COVID-19, self-isolate and call your doctor about getting tested.

We have more information about COVID-19 in our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 9/22/2020

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