DC National Guard members test positive for COVID-19 after responding to protests

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In this June 3, 2020 file photo members of the District of Columbia Army National Guard stand guard at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington securing the area as protests continue following the death of George Floyd, a who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers

In this June 3, 2020 file photo members of the District of Columbia Army National Guard stand guard at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington securing the area as protests continue following the death of George Floyd, a who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers

WASHINGTON — Members of the D.C. National Guard who were responding to protests in the nation’s capital over the death of George Floyd have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The service members were part of the 1,300 D.C. National Guard members called up to help law enforcement respond initially to rioting on May 31, that was followed by days of peaceful protests. A Guard spokeswoman did not identify how many positive tests the unit has recorded.

“We can confirm that we have had COVID-19 positive tests with the DCNG,” said D.C. National Guard spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Brooke Davis. “The safety and security of our personnel is always a concern, especially in light of the COVID-19 era.”

The news follows reports that two members of the Nebraska National Guard who were activated in response to protests in Lincoln, Neb., have also tested positive.

The D.C. National Guard was supported by approximately 3,900 additional Guardsmen from Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah to protect national monuments and ensure peaceful demonstrations as tens of thousands of protesters took to district streets last week.

In the largest protest Saturday, participants squeezed past each other, some with masks, some not, as they chanted and sang near the White House.

Members of two National Guard units from Missouri and Mississippi on Saturday were not wearing masks, and while they tried to maintain social distance, at times it was not possible as the crowds swelled or engaged with them.

Almost all of the National Guard units were expected to leave the city by Wednesday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters on Sunday.

Any Guardsman who has tested positive for the coronavirus, however, will be held back until they are no longer sick or contagious, Davis said.

“All Guardsmen who are suspected to be at high risk of infection or have tested positive for COVID-19 during demobilization will not be released from Title 32 orders until risk of infection or illness has passed,” Davis said.

“Members of the Air and Army National Guard with no, or low risk of exposure, who present symptoms of infection one to 14 days after release from orders will contact their unit,” she said.

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©2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.