The racial justice protests earlier this summer were not the driving force behind a spike in U.S. COVID-19 infections that some public health officials feared they would be, perhaps because the marches were outdoors where it is harder for the virus to spread, according to one of the first studies to examine a possible link.
A new survey by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard, Northwestern, and Rutgers universities covered nearly 40,000 people who participated in national demonstrations against police brutality and white supremacy. Protesters were disproportionately younger individuals whose lives were profoundly disrupted by the pandemic in fundamental ways, such as lost work or reduced wages.
They were interviewed beginning in early June, shortly after George Floyd’s death in police custody, and concluded in late July, a span that saw near daily Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
Looking at the relationship between rising coronavirus cases in states with greater protest participation, researchers wrote: “There is a clear and significant negative correlation between the percentage of a state’s population who reported protesting and the subsequent increase in cases of COVID-19.”