'I am a target for this virus': Bay Area NAACP leader explains high stakes of protesting during COVID-19

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Protesters going out in the streets to speak up against the death of George Floyd and police brutality in America are being faced with a high stakes choice: stay home amid a global pandemic or walk in solidarity with fellow demonstrators.

For black Americans, that choice has even higher stakes. COVID-19 disproportionately affects communities of color. While black Californians make up 5% of known coronavirus cases in the state, they account for 10% of the death toll.

The risk of contracting the virus wasn't lost on Pastor Jethro Moore, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP chapter.

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"I apologized to my wife for even being out there, because I am a target for this virus. All the elements it seeks to destroy exist inside of me," Moore said, acknowledging that by joining a protest in San Jose he put his life and family's life in danger.

It's an ironic twist as Moore and others are protesting the threat that systemic racism poses to their lives. He said the police department's actions at Bay Area protests have only made it harder to social distance.

"As the police department fired the tear gas and the flash bombs and made people cough, made people stumble, and as they pushed people over on top of other people, those all added to the agitation and added to the opportunity to spread the disease back and forth to each other."

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At protests around the Bay Area, we've seen most demonstrators wearing masks or other face coverings, though it's not always possible to stay the recommended 6 feet apart.

Moore said he apologized to his family when he got home for potentially exposing them to the virus and he's considering getting tested to be safe.

"I'm ready to die but I'm not ready to go right now," he said.

Moore believes it's not just important to talk about the percentage of black Americans being infected with and killed by COVID-19, but to name them and mourn them as individuals.

"Let's put names on it. Let's put a face on it," he said. "These are more than numbers, these are people. Let's share the people's grief."
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