COVID-19 concerns amplified as large groups of protesters gather in Tampa

As the city of Tampa catches its breath Monday after a weekend of protests, city officials are raising concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

"It's an issue that’s certainly in the forefront of all of our minds because our cases here in Hillsborough County are continuing to go up," says Mayor Jane Castor.

FOX 13's Dr. Joette Giovinco says the virus can thrive in a protest environment, where social distancing is almost non-existent.

"You have individuals who are in close proximity. They are speaking to one another. And even though they are outdoors, and we are hoping that being outdoors may decrease risk, unfortunately, they were in such close proximity it would really not negate all of that risk," she says.

Castor hopes protestors are taking high-risk populations into consideration.

"The COVID-19 virus disproportionately affects the black and brown communities. So, bringing hundreds of individuals into close contact, talking very loudly, allows the spread of this virus," she says.

Castor says unprecedented times call for unprecedented requests. So, she is asking anyone who takes to the streets in protest to please wear a mask.

"I don't know that you've ever heard law enforcement officials encourage individuals in any type of marches to wear masks, but we are now."