Two groups of a peaceful protest attracted massive police attention while looters ran freely through Santa Monica.

Public health authorities are worried there could be a spike in coronavirus cases as thousands of people march in protests that in turn have forced some virus testing centers to close.

Los Angeles County officials said Monday that plans to re-open restaurants and retail continue with the same precautions as before the widespread protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The officials said they support peaceful demonstrations, but urged participants to wear facial coverings and keep distance from each other where possible, fearing packed crowds could lead to more virus cases.

“My biggest concern now is that in two to three weeks, what is going to happen based on the conduct of individuals over the weekend, and we don’t know,” said Kathryn Barger, chair of Los Angeles County’s board of supervisors. “We’re going to be watching very closely.”

The comments came as Los Angeles County announced the closure of some virus testing sites due to concern about the unrest in Los Angeles and nearby cities. Some testing locations were also closed in nearby Orange County.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he wasn’t concerned by the testing postponement, saying other sites remain available. More than 67,000 tests were conducted across the state on Sunday, he said, nearly a week into the protests.

“People are being tested, substantially so, all throughout the state of California even in the midst of this latest challenge,” he said.

Cities in California and across the country have been gripped by protests over the death of Floyd, a handcuffed black man seen in a video pleading for air as a white officer pressed a knee on his neck. Some events were marked by violence and looting at local businesses that had been working to recover from virus-related closures.

Los Angeles County, which reported nearly 2,400 virus deaths on Monday, won state approval last week to re-open restaurants and more retail, following other nearby counties that recently did the same.

Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County’s public health department, urged those who choose to protest to wear facial coverings to protect others, even if they are willing to take the risk of rallying during the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of risk at these gatherings becoming super-spreader events,” she said. “We’ll need to work together to prevent these events from resulting in many more people becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.”

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