When the massive Black Lives Matter demonstrations began in May, it was unclear how they might impact the country’s ongoing coronavirus pandemic. According to a new study published earlier this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the nationwide demonstrations don’t appear to be linked to spikes in coronavirus cases. In fact, there’s some evidence suggesting the last month of protests may have led to a slight decline in the cities they occurred in.
The study used anonymous cell phone tracking data from Safegraph, Inc. combined with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reach their conclusions.
“Our findings suggest that any direct decrease in social distancing among the subset of the population participating in the protests is more than offset by increasing social distancing behavior among others who may choose to shelter-at-home and circumvent public places while the protests are underway,” the report reads.
“Cities which had protests saw an increase in social distancing behavior for the overall population relative to cities that did not,” the report notes. “In addition, we find no evidence that net COVID-19 case growth differentially rose following the onset of Black Lives Matter protests, and even modest evidence of a small longer-run case growth decline.”
Basically, during the massive protests, enough people stayed home to avoid running into the massive demonstrations that it could have actually helped limit the spread of the virus.
“These results make an important contribution not only to the current discussion around policies for controlling the spread of disease, but also to the understanding of human behavior of the general population during periods of civil unrest,” the report continued.
Recent research has shown that the virus is harder to transmit in open-air scenarios, particularly if people are maintaining distance (at least six feet), wearing facemasks properly, and sanitizing or not touching common surfaces.
The researchers point out that this may change as protests lessen or possibly become less “intense”—as CNN writes.
What does appear to be driving new increases in the coronavirus are states re-opening for business. Notably, more young people are testing positive for the novel virus than in recent months. For example, in Texas, one of the first states to completely disregard the health of its residents in favor of economic gains, Gov. Greg Abbott said people under 30 have made up a majority of new coronavirus cases in several counties. Abbott speculated that this could be due to recent Memorial Day gatherings, and the reopening of bars and restaurants.
Hrmmm. Wonder who could have prevented that!