Black Lives Matters protests across US haven’t caused spike in COVID-19 cases like experts feared because the number of people trying to avoid the protests offset the behavior of demonstrators, study finds.
A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research used cellphone data to track protests held in 280 large cities across the US and found no evidence, overall, that the demonstrations contributed to significant increases in COVID-19 cases.
Researchers say that even though hundreds of thousands of protesters crowded the streets in the weeks after George Floyd‘s death in Minneapolis, social distancing surprisingly increased in large cities with major protests.
The study suggests that social distancing went up in some of those cities as people tried to avoid the protests and stayed home, which in turn offset the behaviors of the demonstrators.
‘While the protests themselves were large gatherings that do not match well with social distancing guidelines, the protesting population is not the only one that may have a behavioral response,’ the study read.
‘For example, other individuals who did not wish to participate in the protests, perhaps due to fear of violence from police clashes or general unrest, may have chosen to avoid public spaces while protests were underway.
‘This could have an offsetting effect, increasing social distancing behavior in other parts of the population.’
The study used cellphone data from SafeGraph to track the timing of the protests compared to the number of people staying home.
It also used COVID-19 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to compare case growth in those cities.
While researchers say the evidence doesn’t point to a substantial spread due to protests, the study does point out that protesters could have caused an increase in the spread of the virus.
The study includes an analysis of 13 counties where protests were held and only one – Maricopa County in Arizona – saw an increase in cases around the time of the protests.
‘With the exception for Maricopa County, Arizona, we find essentially no evidence that protests contributed to significant or substantial increases in COVID-19 during the period following protest onset,’ the study read.
Arizona, which is now a virus hotspot, is currently seeing a record numbers of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Meanwhile, activists in South Carolina have halted future protests after at least 13 demonstrators tested positive for coronavirus……read more