By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The ongoing protests and looting come amid a pandemic. Cases of COVID-19 have been going down, but will that change because of the crowds of people who are in close contact?

The fact that the protests and looting happened mostly outside will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading, which is most likely when people are in close contact inside.

The streets of Philadelphia were crowded with people, many in masks, but still in close contact.

“It’s obviously disheartening, challenging and it’s just the whole situation, of course, is just one additional challenge that we face in this pandemic,” said Dr. John Zurlo, chief of infectious diseases at Jefferson Hospital.

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Zurlo is not expecting a major increase of cases.

“The outdoors, happily, viruses like COVID are not spread as efficiently. I think that’s really our best chance,” Zurlo said.

But the looters were briefly inside some stores and there was a lot of yelling, which increases the risk for the virus to spread.

“It’s easy to understand the anger and concern from that community. I just hope they don’t suffer more from these protests as a consequence,” Zurlo said.

Along with racial injustice, black and Latino Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, which may be spread by people who are infected but not showing symptoms.

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From a health perspective, doctors say it’s beneficial that most of the protesters and looters were young, to a degree.

“It’s the young people who don’t get sick but they can spread it to older, sicker people. That’s the challenge,” Zurlo said.

Doctors say it will take about two weeks to know if the protests will lead to an increase in coronavirus cases. It can take a few days to a week for symptoms to develop and then for testing results to come back.

Stephanie Stahl