Protests broke out across the United States and around the world after the May 25 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota,media reported. Tens of thousands of people in all 50 states took to the streets to demand justice for Floyd and hold the police accountable. While much remains to be done, protests have begun to take off, with the Minneapolis City Council promising to disband its police force, several other states passing police reform bills and Confederate statues being removed.
In fact, at this special time, protesters face the threat of a new crown virus pandemic in addition to violence from the police. At the start of the protests, public health experts warned the city that large gatherings could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases. While many of the protesters wore masks, many did not, and the police who clashed with them often did not wear masks. But so far, at least, the protests do not appear to have led to a surge in confirmed cases.
On May 25, the day George Floyd died, Minnesota reported 742 new cases, according to the New York Times New York Times’ New Crown Case Chart. Two weeks later, the number of new cases showed a downward trend, dropping to 299 on 9 June. As Newsweek points out, the decline is hardly attributable to a lack of testing, as there have been 30,000 more diagnostic tests in the two weeks since the protests began. In addition, the positive rate decreased by about 4 per cent. More and more people are being tested, and fewer and fewer people are infected.
Dr. Daniel Havlichk, director of infectious diseases at Michigan State University’s School of Human Medicine, told Newsweek that the decline could have “a million possible explanations.” He points out that positive cases may be on the decline, and that people who feel unwell are staying at home, socializing during protests, or asymptomatic transmission is not as common as before.
As for the surge in infectioncause of the protests, Dr. Sadiya Khan, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said it would be difficult to determine the driving force behind the new case, as Minnesota’s home segregation order expires on May 18 and all large gatherings take place over Memorial Day weekend and restaurants and bars reopen on June 1.
“I think a lot of people are worried about the outbreak, and I think some people will infer that it has something to do with the protests,” he said. I don’t think there’s any direct data that makes this very clear unless we track the contacts and identify the most likely source. “