Were the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests mostly responsible for the surge in COVID-19 cases happening throughout the country?
- More than 2,697,700 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 128,000 have died as of July 1, 2020.
- The United States may soon record as many as 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 a day if the current trajectory of the outbreak is not changed, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci said.
- In major cities including New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Washington, DC, and Chicago, where numerous protests have taken place in recent weeks, numbers of new coronavirus cases are actually declining, despite widespread testing. Coronavirus cases are also trending downward in Minnesota, the state where Floyd was killed, and where the protests started.
- Experts pointed to states reopening, particularly allowing indoor gatherings — at bars, restaurants, barbershops, workplaces, and so on — in which the coronavirus is more likely to spread. Studies show that previous measures to close down such gatherings likely helped lower Covid-19 cases.
- The coronavirus’s incubation period can take up to two weeks, and people coming back from protests who get sick can take a while to infect their communities, so it’s possible an increase in cases could be linked to the protests down the line.
With the month of June just over, public discourse has shifted away from police brutality back to COVID-19. Although without intention, the dialogue around the Black Lives Matter protests paved the way for this surge in cases.
The protests by themselves led to high-levels of contact, contrasting the social distancing rules promoted since March. Protests stretched across the nation, notably in high-density areas, and since many symptoms of COVID are observed after a short period of time, it is definitely viable for protestors to be vectors. However, the responsibility falls less into the actions of the protestors, rather than the dialogue that centered around them. When unrest was ignited nationwide, around one thousand doctors supported the right to prioritize protesting even during a pandemic. The media frequently pushes aside issues for what sells, and with the BLM movement in the spotlight, outlets quickly capitalized, displacing coronavirus awareness. In addition, few groups of civilians argued against the lockdown and mask-wearing before the tragedy of George Floyd. And those who did through light protests were slandered by the Media as “not caring about lives,” “dangerous,” or being 'mind-boggling selfish” and “suicidal.”
Conversely, professionals in the healthcare, media, and even political fields promoted public gatherings in June. Those who already were on the fence of health precautions most likely stopped following them entirely. What’s worrisome is the same young people who sought to rally against police brutality, braving COVID-19, are now in the same demographic unconcerned about coronavirus while dealing with a significant spike in cases. The BLM movement rightfully protested for social change, but forgot to simultaneously keep in mind health concerns.
It's irresponsible to frame the George Floyd protests as a means of which the virus has spread when there are so many factors besides the demonstrations that have contributed to the recent rise in cases. First and foremost, the mode of transmission is key when discussing the virus. Given that mask-wearing demonstrators attend the majority of these protests, places with the most protests have not seen the same increase. Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker, stated, 'The vast majority of the folks who participated in those demonstrations were wearing masks or face coverings of one kind or another.' Likewise, a minuscule 2.5% of the tests on protestors came back positive, which aligns with the Massachusetts state average.
Another factor regarding COVID-19's spread is indoor vs. outdoor transmission. A study done in Japan regarding the virus' transmission found that 'a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment.' This is coupled with the recent numbers regarding states reopening their indoor establishments such as bars and restaurants in places like Texas and Florida who've seen large spikes as high as 77% compared to previous weeks. Cases can be linked to social outings, where masks aren't being worn, through the process of contact tracing or parsing through the people a single person has come in contact with and testing all those involved.
This does not seek to invalidate the cases that can and will be contributed to the protests because this is not a veiled argument. What is a veiled argument is attempting to scapegoat the protests of George Floyd in an attempt to undermine their value in the first place.