George Floyd, whose death in Minnesota police custody has stirred widespread anger across the United States and abroad, tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to a full-length autopsy report released by Wednesday night.
A postmortem nasal swab collected on May 26 was found to be “positive for 2019-nCoV RNA,” the report said, using another term for the type of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and is responsible for the global pandemic.
Floyd was known to be positive for the virus on April 3, and the type of viral testing performed for the autopsy, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), can show a positive result “for weeks after the onset and resolution of clinical disease,” according to Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker, who conducted the autopsy.
“The autopsy result most likely reflects asymptomatic but persistent PCR positivity from previous infection,” Baker said in the 20-page report. In other words, Floyd was unlikely to have been contagious at the time of his death, in which the virus had no known role.
Earlier this week, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office released preliminary findings in a one-page “press release report,” which did not include the coronavirus test. The cause of death — “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual restraint and neck compression” — remains the same.
However, early findings from an independent autopsy ordered by Floyd’s family show his death was a “homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.”
Mass protests have taken place in every U.S. state as well as a number of cities overseas following the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man who died on May 25 in Minneapolis shortly after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes as three other officers stood by. The protesters are demanding justice for Floyd and decrying the overall treatment of Black Americans by police.
The Minneapolis Police Department has since fired all four officers, and the one seen pinning Floyd down, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other officers, Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao, each have been charged with second-degree aiding and abetting felony murder as well as second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter, according to court documents.