Black Lives Matter Protests Did Not Cause Spike In Coronavirus Cases, Research Finds
Research conducted by a team of economists indicates Black Lives Matter protests did not cause a spike in coronavirus cases in the US.
Following the death of George Floyd and the amount of protests and demonstrations that have followed, governments and health officials expressed their concerns that large gatherings would fuel the spread of the disease, which is passed from person to person through droplets.
Members of the public have been urged to avoid close contact with other people, but still millions of activists across the globe came together to fight for justice for Floyd and for the Black Lives Matter movement, with protests still ongoing.
Many critics accused protesters of undoing the work done to stem the virus through lockdowns, but now researchers have found there is ‘no evidence that urban protests reignited COVID-19 case growth during the more than three weeks following protest onset’.
The study, led by Dhaval Dave of Bentley University and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, is yet to be peer-reviewed, but based its research on newly collected coronavirus testing data from 315 of the largest US cities, with authors stating protests took place in 281 of those cities.
In Minneapolis, for example, more than 15,000 people were tested at centres set up in communities affected by the protests, and though 1.7% of tests came back positive, the results were still below the statewide average of about 3.6%, Forbes reports.
The authors commented:
When considering the results’ implications for the entire population: public speech and public health did not trade off against each other in this case.
The study also looked at mobile phone data and found that ‘cities which had protests saw an increase in social distancing behaviour for the overall population relative to cities that did not’, in turn leading to ‘modest evidence of a small longer-run case growth decline.’
In many cities, the protests actually seemed to lead to a net increase in social distancing, as more people who did not protest decided to stay off the streets.
Of the 13 cities involved in the earliest wave of protests, only one saw coronavirus rates increase in the following weeks, with experts from Phoenix saying cases and hospitalisations surged after Gov. Doug Ducey decided to end Arizona’s stay-at-home order on May 15 and eased restrictions on businesses.
Though protests may have contributed to the rise in cases, Arizona residents also ignored social distancing guidelines and flooded Phoenix-area bar districts, AP News reports.
There are some factors the data used in the study would not have been able to account for; exactly how many people attended each protest, how many wore a mask, and how many got tested after the protests, for example.
There has been an increase in coronavirus cases in Columbus, Ohio, in the last month, but health officials have not been able to attribute the rise to any particular reason other than people socialising and returning to normal activities without taking precautions.
Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus public health commissioner, told AP News:
I know of three people who told us ‘Yes, I was at a protest.’ That doesn’t mean there was not another 25 or more who did attend a protest and just did not share that with us.
Most of the protests, at least in my jurisdiction, were outside. And I would say 50% of those at the protests were wearing a face mask.
Though protests are still ongoing, it seems they don’t play much of a part in increasing coronavirus cases, with spreading more likely due to a lack of people taking preventative measures.
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Topics: News, Black Lives Matter, Coronavirus, COVID-19, George Floyd, infection, Now, Protests, testing