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US anti-racism protests did not cause spike in coronavirus cases, new study shows

Published on 03/07/20 at 11:34am
Photo by Andrew Mercer

Widespread protests against racism and police brutality did not cause a significant spike in coronavirus cases in the US, according to new research.

A 60 pager paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research analysed COVID-19 testing data in many of the populated cities where demonstrations were held, with the study collecting data from 315 cities, with 281 cities experiencing protests.

Based on collected cell phone data, the researchers found that cities which had protests saw an increase in social distancing behaviour for the overall population relative to cities that did not, leading to “modest evidence of a small longer-run case growth decline.”

This is also supported by local data from testing centres. For example, in Minneapolis the Department of Health Reported that more than 15,000 people were tested at centres set up in communities affected by the protests, and 1.7% of these tests came back positive, which was below the state wide average of about 3.6%. This is corroborated by research conducted by the Washington Post protest attendees in Minneapolis that returned positivity rates of less than 1%, and health officials believe this is due to protestors wearing masks, being outside and in constant motion during marches.

Dhaval Dave, professor at Bentley University and the study’s lead author, said: “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.”

Protests across the US came after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, is being charged with second-degree murder, while three other officers on the scene are being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. It is the latest in a string of high profile police killings of unarmed and innocent African-Americans.

Conor Kavanagh

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