Since May 26th, the night after George Floyd was killed by police, people have been filling the streets of Minneapolis to protest his death and assert that Black Lives Matter. In the following days, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, protests spread across the country, until there were people gathered to fight against police brutality and systemic racism in all 50 states. Still, according to new research, the protests don’t seem to have spiked cases of COVID-19
As protests have continued—every night for nearly four weeks now, in some places—some public health officials and politicians worried about an increased spread of coronavirus. Some of the loudest voices among these concerns were the Trump administration, warning governors of a protest-related coronavirus surge. Deborah Birx, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, told The Daily Beast that yelling at protests could potentially negate the positive health protections from wearing a mask.
Due to the virus’ incubation period, which is thought to be 14 days, these theories couldn’t be tested right away. Now, with enough time having passed, researchers and those reporting testing rates from various major cities are seeing no surge in positive cases. A study, conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, used anonymous cell phone tracking data and local CDC data on new coronavirus cases across 315 cities.
“We find no evidence that urban protests reignited COVID-19 case growth during the more than two and a half weeks following protest onset,” the researchers wrote.
They continued: “We conclude that predictions of broad negative public health consequences of Black Lives Matter protests were far too narrowly conceived.” In Minneapolis, where the protests began and some of the largest crowds have gathered, only 1.8 of protesters have tested positive, which was far below the state’s positive test rate average of 3.7. Other locations including Philadelphia, Seattle, Sacramento, and upstate New York have also reported no measurable spike in cases.
So, what does this mean? Experts have attributed the lack of a spike in new cases following protests to the large percentage of people wearing masks, New York reports.
This news is also contributing to the growing consensus that the risk of spreading coronavirus outdoors is significantly lower than the risk indoors, especially when wearing a mask. Jeffrey Shaman, director of the climate and health program at Columbia University and the author of widely publicized studies on the spread of coronavirus, told Slate that he thinks the “lion’s share of infections” occurs indoors. “I think that outdoors, in sunshine, with masks, is a fairly safe environment,” he said.
TL;DR: Just wear your mask.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, HelloGiggles is committed to providing accurate and helpful coverage to our readers. As such, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, we encourage you to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments, and visit our coronavirus hub.