Little evidence that protests spread coronavirus in US

There is little evidence that the protests that erupted after George Floyd’s death caused a significant increase in U.S. coronavirus infections, according to public health experts.

Posted: Jul 1, 2020 2:23 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — There is little evidence that the protests that erupted after George Floyd’s death caused a significant increase in U.S. coronavirus infections, according to public health experts.

If the protests had driven an explosion in cases, experts say, the jumps would have started to become apparent within two weeks — and perhaps as early as five days. But that didn’t happen in many cities with the largest protests, including New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C.

In what’s considered the first systematic look at the question, a team of economists determined that only one of 13 cities involved in the earliest wave of protests after Memorial Day had an increase that would fit the pattern.

It was Phoenix, where experts say cases and hospitalizations surged after a decision by Gov. Doug Ducey to end Arizona’s stay-at-home order on May 15 and eased restrictions on businesses. Arizona residents who were cooped up for six weeks flooded Phoenix-area bar districts, ignoring social distancing guidelines.

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, said that study’s lead author, Dhaval Dave of Bentley University.

“The large-scale protests can impact both the behavior of the protesters and the behavior of the non-protesters,” said Dave. The paper was released last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, but has not been published by a peer-reviewed journal.

Drawing from data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, The Associated Press reviewed trends in daily reported cases in 22 U.S. cities with protests. It found post-protest increases in several cities — including Houston and Madison, Wisconsin — where experts say other factors were more likely the main drivers.

Health officials are still investigating case surges in different states, and more data may come in. But experts believe that if the protests did have a big impact on cases, stronger signs would be apparent now.

Floyd was killed on May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer who used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground. The killing of a Black man at the hands of a white officer touched off protests around the United States. Coincidentally, some states had begun to lift social distancing restrictions in late May.

Dave and his colleagues counted protests over three weeks in 281 cities with populations of at least 100,000. Most had protests lasting more than three days, and many had protests that had at least 1,000 participants.

It’s not clear how many protesters participated, let alone how many of them wore masks or got tested after. That may have varied from place to place.

Houston is among a number of Texas cities that have recently seen steep increases in cases and hospitalizations. Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of the county health department, believes it was likely some cases could be traced to the protests.

“We just don’t know how much,” he said.

But it’s hard to measure the protests’ precise impact for a number of reasons, Shah and others said. Earlier business reopenings and more willingness to shrug off social distancing guidelines started the trend in the Houston area, Shah said.

Another factor: Many people don’t get tested unless they feel symptoms. Many protesters were young adults, who generally are less likely to get severe illness, and therefore may not have gotten tested, experts said.

And some who do get tested may still not answer all the questions they are asked by outbreak investigators.

“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,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, the public health commissioner for the city of Columbus, Ohio.

That city has seen increased cases in the last month, but health officials say they can’t attribute it to any particular reason other than people socializing and returning to normal activities without wearing masks or taking other precautions. So far, protests don’t seem to be a real factor.

“Most of the protests, at least in my jurisdiction, were outside,” and the virus does not spread as well outside, Roberts said. “And I would say 50% of those at the protests were wearing a face mask.”

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Terre Haute
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 85°
Robinson
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 86°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 82°
Rockville
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 82°
Casey
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 86°
Brazil
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 85°
Marshall
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 85°
Mostly sunny and slightly warmer
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 191808

Reported Deaths: 7822
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1100024920
Lake12491445
DuPage12021519
Kane9629303
Will9053344
St. Clair3897160
Winnebago3755129
McHenry3123114
Madison247074
Kankakee172568
Rock Island167934
Champaign162519
Peoria152535
Unassigned1365209
Kendall134323
Sangamon119433
DeKalb91730
Boone75823
Jackson69519
LaSalle68424
McLean62415
Macon57823
Adams5065
Tazewell4868
Randolph4527
Coles44820
Ogle4035
Clinton38717
Williamson3746
Whiteside33916
Stephenson3256
Union31823
Grundy3075
Monroe30513
Knox2911
Iroquois25711
Jefferson24719
Henry2321
Morgan2296
Vermilion2292
Cass22311
Warren1890
Bureau1792
Lee1651
Montgomery1617
Franklin1560
Macoupin1563
Marion1520
Perry1491
Effingham1391
McDonough13915
Christian1344
Woodford1343
Saline1302
Jo Daviess1241
Douglas1082
Logan1060
Livingston1052
Jersey982
Pulaski920
Clark792
Shelby751
Mercer733
Moultrie720
Johnson660
Washington640
White640
Fayette603
Bond593
Jasper597
Wayne591
Piatt560
Cumberland532
Menard530
Carroll504
Ford492
Gallatin492
Hancock471
Lawrence450
Mason450
Greene380
Massac370
Alexander360
Wabash340
De Witt330
Fulton330
Crawford290
Edgar280
Hamilton280
Marshall240
Clay200
Pike200
Hardin180
Richland180
Edwards170
Schuyler170
Scott160
Brown130
Putnam110
Henderson100
Calhoun90
Pope80
Stark70
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 72254

Reported Deaths: 3023
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15503725
Lake7447274
Elkhart476082
Allen3789161
St. Joseph337381
Hamilton2668105
Vanderburgh188813
Hendricks1833106
Cass17749
Johnson1719118
Porter126639
Clark117846
Tippecanoe117711
Madison91565
LaPorte88330
Howard87265
Kosciusko84012
Marshall77122
Bartholomew76647
Floyd76045
Monroe72230
Delaware70152
Dubois67612
Boone66246
Noble65929
Hancock64138
Vigo58610
Jackson5725
Warrick57030
LaGrange55610
Shelby54227
Grant52130
Dearborn49328
Morgan45934
Clinton4093
Henry37320
Wayne35410
White35410
Montgomery34821
Lawrence33627
Decatur33232
Harrison32123
Putnam2868
Miami2672
Daviess26320
Scott26310
Greene24634
Franklin23813
Jasper2272
DeKalb2264
Jennings22012
Gibson2144
Steuben2063
Ripley1977
Fayette1837
Perry18112
Carroll1772
Starke1767
Posey1670
Orange16624
Wabash1633
Wells1622
Fulton1612
Jefferson1552
Whitley1506
Knox1490
Tipton1336
Spencer1313
Washington1311
Huntington1213
Newton11510
Randolph1154
Clay1095
Sullivan1031
Adams952
Jay860
Owen841
Pulaski761
Rush744
Brown731
Fountain682
Blackford622
Ohio624
Benton600
Pike520
Parke511
Vermillion500
Switzerland450
Crawford440
Martin430
Union370
Warren221
Unassigned0202