Black Lives Matter demonstrations became an easy target to blame for the rise in Coronavirus cases. Turns out folks couldn't have been more wrong.
As more and more Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the United States amid the pandemic, naysayers, in a bid to derail the movement, attributed the upsurge in coronavirus cases to protests. However, after some thorough research, experts have proven that the steep rise didn't actually come from demonstrations. Although, there is some evidence to suggest that it came from parties. Yes, parties.
The analysis, compiled by a team of economists in a 60-page paper and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, notes that there was no real correlation between the "public speech" of the ongoing anti-racism protests and public health, Forbes Magazine reports.
To come to this conclusion, the researchers surveyed the urban areas where major demonstrations took place. They discovered "no evidence that urban protests reignited... Case growth during the more than three weeks following protest onset."
In fact, their findings pointed to an increase in adherence to social distancing rules. "Cities which had protests saw an increase in social distancing behavior for the overall population relative to cities that did not," they wrote. "[This lead to] modest evidence of a small longer-run case growth decline." Lead author Dhaval Dave of Bentley University also affirmed, "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."
The data was taken from 315 of the largest cities in the United States. According to the figures, Black Lives Matter protests took place in 281 of those cities. Perhaps there is no better example of the team's findings than the data provided by the Minneapolis Department of Health. More than 15,000 people were tested for the illness at centers set up in the communities most affected by the protests. The Department found that only 1.7 percent of the tests came back positive. This is lower than the statewide average of an estimated 3.6 percent.
Why is this so? Well, officials believe these low infection rates are a reflection of all the guidelines that the protests followed: they took place outside, most attendees wore masks, and those who attended spent most of their time "in motion, circulating through the crowd," The Washington Post reports.
In stark contrast, private parties where people are not following social distancing guidelines are more likely to be hotspots for community spread. Erika Lautenbach, the director of the Whatcom County Health Department in Washington State, said in an interview with NPR's All Things Considered podcast, "We're finding that the social events and gatherings, these parties where people aren't wearing masks, are our primary source of infection." Workplaces were also responsible for community spread. "The secondary source of infection is workplace settings," she said. "There were 31 related employers just associated with that one party because of the number of people that brought that to their workplace."
Lautenbach goes on to credit masks as an effective means to curb the spread of the disease. She says: "We did have a rally in Bellingham, which is our county seat, and there was also a protest, and we have not been able to connect a single case to that rally or to the protest, and what we're finding is in large part that's due to the use of masks."
"Almost everyone at the rally was wearing a mask, and it's really a testament to how effective masks are in preventing the spread of this disease," Lautenbach added.
Ultimately, while there is always some risk when it comes to mass gatherings in public, there is a way to express dissent safely—with masks on, six feet apart, in motion, and armed with evidence. The paper declares, "We conclude that predictions of broad negative public health consequences of Black Lives Matter protests were far too narrowly conceived."