Did the recent protests, marches and rallies inspired by the death of George Floyd — still ongoing in some communities — spread the coronavirus in a significant way? Technically it is too early to tell, but protests started in Minneapolis on May 26 and several other cities on May 27. The crowd trashed the CNN center in Atlanta May 29.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can develop from two to 14 days from infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the median onset time is four to five days from exposure to symptoms. Anyone infected in those first protests who is going to develop symptoms probably has developed them by now.
Some local media reports already are bringing bad news regarding the potential spread of the coronavirus at protests.
Columbus, Ohio: “Columbus Public Health tweeted it is aware of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in an individual who attended protests in downtown Columbus. Columbus Health says the individual was symptomatic on May 27 but still attended the protests.”
Lawrence, Kan.: “The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is warning residents that took place in Sunday night’s protest to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. A release sent by the Lawrence Douglas County Public Health Department states that a resident that was downtown at the protest has tested positive for the virus. The Department has stated that it was notified of the positive test on Friday after the test was taken on Thursday. They also say that the person was not wearing a mask at the protest.”
Oklahoma City: “The Oklahoma City-County Health Department reported on Monday that their epidemiologists have noticed a slight increase in positive COVID-19 among young people. The new cases reported between May 22nd and June 5th showed a 13% rise in those under the age of 34. The state’s reopening is believed to play a role in the latest increase, as well as the recent protests.”
Lincoln, Neb.: “Two members of the Nebraska National Guard who assisted Lincoln police in enforcing a curfew imposed by Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird over recent weeks have tested positive for the coronavirus. . . . While the National Guard made adjustments to follow social distancing guidelines the best it could, and asked members to wear masks, [Maj. Scott] Ingalsbe said it ‘was not always feasible’ while they were working.”
Chicago, Ill.: “With thousands of people arrested in Chicago amid massive protests of the killing of George Floyd, new research from the University of Chicago suggests such mass detentions could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases. More than 3,000 people have been arrested in Chicago since May 29, detained for civil unrest, disorderly conduct and looting, police said. A study found nearly 16 percent of all documented cases of COVID-19 in Chicago as of mid-April were associated with people cycling through [Cook County] jail — which has been a hotbed for infections.”
But some communities are reporting no indications of the coronavirus spreading at recent protests:
Syracuse, N.Y.: “Onondaga County hasn’t seen any uptick of coronavirus cases a week after a large protest in Syracuse against police brutality, County Executive Ryan McMahon said today. ‘There [are] no indications we’ve had cases from that,’ McMahon said of the protests that lasted overnight from May 30 to May 31.”
Arkansas: “Arkansas State Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said at this point, the state hasn’t identified any positive COVID-19 cases from recent protests.”
Most other local health officials are saying that it is too early to tell about the protests in their area, and urge everyone to wear masks and socially distance where possible.
One other local protest and coronavirus testing story of note, in New Jersey: “Gov. Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy have scheduled coronavirus tests after they marched alongside protestors taking to the streets against police brutality Sunday in Hillside and Westfield. But some in New Jersey, including at least one Republican lawmaker, claim the governor should not be let off without a citation as he defied his own executive order on public gatherings in attending the Black Lives Matter events.”