In a recent and very comprehensive article for The Atlantic, authors Alexis C. Madrigal and Robinson Meyer uttered an understatement so massive, it was darkly humorous:
The number of protests over the past week means that researchers will soon have a much better understanding of the risks of outdoor transmission.
A lot of people were very upset that protesters in Los Angeles and other cities hit the streets for a purpose they deemed to be of overwhelming importance. Even some people who agree with the principles called the protests irresponsible in terms of public health. But, as it turns out, the protests may not have caused any dramatic increase in the spread of COVID-19.
Journalist Alex Mahadevan spoke with Stanford University infectious disease researcher Erin Mordecai, who said,
Even before the protests started, L.A. had a problem. The county was already seeing increased growth in the epidemic, and that growth has been pretty consistent.
The thing that makes it hard to separate out the effects of the protests versus other factors, is a lot of states were reopening at the same time in late May. You had protests, you had Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, businesses starting to reopen.
Many protesters wore face coverings. In Seattle, out of those who were tested, very few showed positive. Minneapolis and Boston followed the same pattern. But there are “buts,” says journalist Robert Roy Britt. For instance, there was no way to verify if all the people tested had actually been in the midst of protest crowds. And the cities examined in his article do not share the exact same rules about masking, distancing, and other matters.
Meanwhile, data from many sources seemed to indicate that “superspreader events” happen indoors, in enclosed spaces, when people are in those spaces for long periods of time. In other words, under different conditions than a protest march. More than three weeks after the massive protests that involved hundreds of thousands of people all the activity did not seem to have affected the rate of new cases.
Apparently, “social distancing rules are not so important if people are outside and wear masks.” Buzzfeednews.com offered this:
What’s more, a new analysis based on cellphone tracking data suggests a surprising reason for the lack of protest-related spikes in COVID-19: In the cities with large protests, the wider population actually spent more time at home during the demonstrations.
Yasmin Tayag, who writes extensively about the novel coronavirus, noted,
Experts have made it clear that it will be extremely difficult to peg any spike in cases to protests because the protests began around the same time that the country began reopening. The protests also began soon after Memorial Day, when many people relaxed their social distancing efforts.
At that point, the experts’ reasons for citing the difficulty were so theoretical and abstruse that one might almost dismiss the whole discussion; but the fact still remains, the predicted huge increase in cases due to mingling in the streets did not occur.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “America Is Giving Up on the Pandemic,” TheAtlantic.com, 06/07/20
Source: “Recent Protests Don’t Seem to Be Causing Outbreaks,” Medium.com, 06/17/20
Source: “How much did protests contribute to Los Angeles’ COVID-19 surge?,” Poynter.org, 07/23/20
Source: “The Black Lives Matter Protests Have Taught Us More About The Coronavirus,” BuzzFeednews.com, 06/23/20
Source: “What We Know About Protests and New Coronavirus Cases,” Medium.com, 06/24/20
Image by Ted Eytan/CC BY-SA 2.0