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 Black Lives Matter protests held in 280 large cities across the US 
  • Researchers say they found no evidence, overall, that the demonstrations contributed to significant increases in COVID-19 cases 
  • They say that even though hundreds of thousands of protesters crowded the streets, social distancing surprisingly increased in large cities with protests
  • The study suggests that social distancing went up as people tried to avoid the protests, which in turn offset the behaviors of the demonstrators 
  • The finding came as Dr Anthony Fauci told Congress on Tuesday that the next few weeks would be critical to tamping down a disturbing coronavirus surge 
  • While early hot spots like New York and New Jersey have seen cases steadily decrease, the virus has been hitting the south and west
  • Troubling surges worsened on Tuesday in several states with Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas setting single-day records for new cases 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Black Lives Matter protests across the United States haven’t caused a spike in coronavirus cases like health experts had initially feared, new research shows. 

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.

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. Protesters are pictured above in New York City on Tuesday

‘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.  

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. 

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. 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

Separate data from the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia forecasts that cities like New York and Minneapolis will continue to see a downward trend of new cases over the next month if current social distancing measures are maintained. 

The study’s finding came as Dr Anthony Fauci told Congress on Tuesday that the next few weeks would be critical to tamping down a disturbing coronavirus surge as he pleaded with Americans to wear masks and avoid crowds. 

The US on Tuesday reported 34,700 new cases of the virus. There have been only two previous days that the US has reported more cases: April 9 and April 24, when a record 36,400 cases were logged. 

New cases in the US have been surging for more than a week after trending down for over six weeks. 

While early hot spots like New York and New Jersey have seen cases steadily decrease, the virus has been hitting the south and west. 

Troubling surges worsened on Tuesday in several states with Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas setting single-day records for new coronavirus cases.

Some governors are also now saying they’ll consider reinstating restrictions or delaying plans to ease up in order to help slow the spread of the virus.   

Separate data from the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia forecasts that cities like New York City (above) and Minneapolis will continue to see a downward trend of new cases over the next month if current social distancing measures are maintained

 The PolicyLab forecasts show COVID-19 cases leveling out in Minneapolis where George Floyd protests first broke out last month following George Floyd’s death

Arizona, where Trump was headed for a speech at a Phoenix megachurch, reported a new daily record of nearly 3,600 additional coronavirus infections Tuesday. Arizona emerged as a COVID-19 hot spot after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lifted his stay-home orders in mid-May. Last week he allowed cities and counties to require masks in public places and many have done so.

Texas surpassed 5,000 new cases for a single day for the first time – just days after it eclipsed 4,000 new cases for the first time – as America’s largest pediatric hospital began taking adult patients to free up bed space in Houston. The infection rate in Texas has doubled since late May. 

Nevada surpassed a record one-day increase for the fourth time in the past eight days. Other states also were experiencing worrisome surges, including Louisiana, Utah and South Carolina.

Another worrisome trend: an increase in infections among young adults. 

Fauci said while COVID-19 tends to be less severe in younger people, some of them do get very sick and even die. Younger people also may be more likely to show no symptoms yet still spread the virus.

If people say, ‘´I’m young, I’m healthy, who cares’ – you should care, not only for yourself but for the impact you might have’ on sickening someone more vulnerable, Fauci said.

About 2.3 million Americans have now been infected and more than 120,000 have died during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The US on Tuesday reported 34,700 new cases of the virus. There have been only two previous days that the US has reported more cases: April 9 and April 24, when a record 36,400 cases were logged

Deaths, however, have been trending downwards across the country. Health experts warn the fatality rate often lags several weeks behind and could potentially shoot back up again following the recent surge in infections

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