Protests and the virus

Completely leaving aside the issue of what’s being protested - since this subforum is focused on the virus alone:

The protests are clearly massive, ongoing, and have totally disregarded the concept of distancing. I was at one of these protests last weekend. And I’ve been following the photos and livestreams from others. Yes, almost everyone is wearing masks. But these are not real, medical-grade masks. They’re mostly homemade, or simply bandanas.

These are not the same masks medical personnel have access to (or don’t, in some cases, but ideally should.) I’m seeing these crowds of people shoulder-to-shoulder or sitting on the ground all together, a foot apart or less. It scares the hell out of me, to be honest.

If they were all wearing real medical masks, that would be one thing. But now I’m starting to seriously worry that in about 5 days we’re going to see an explosion of COVID-19 cases reported by people who took part in these protests.

Is this a reasonable fear or are the homemade masks really going to get the job done in these situations?

I, too am worried. I was fixin’ to loosen up the restrictions on the family.
Now I think it’s best to wait awhile longer.

We only have minimal contact with the world outside my gate.

I’ll wait and see.

I don’t think that many people doubt that cases have a definite potential/probability of going up because of the protests.

Thing is, I’m not sure it’s possible to divorce this specific issue from “what the protests are about,” because to me, the discussion inherently comes with the question, “Is it worth the additional risk of virus spread to hold, attend, and allow these protests?” I don’t think there’s any way around that judgment, unless you come into it just assuming the additional risk is real, and making practical plans to address it that also address protestors’ fear of retaliation by the state.

I think we are deeply and utterly screwed.

Might not be that catastrophic. You need all 4 vectors for really bad outbreak. Number, proximity, time and static atmosphere. Last one lacks in this case. Still, I’d say there could be quite a few more cases than “necessary” …

I’m now seeing Facebook posts from all the same people who were most vociferously insisting that everyone stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing whenever possible, joyfully sharing images of massive protests and marches with hundreds of people crammed together neck-and-neck, without any, and I mean ANY, sort of skepticism that what’s taking place could spread the virus. I get that people are happy that there’s such a surge of public sentiment being displayed by the protests. I’m happy too - I support the sentiment completely. But it feels like we’re being collectively gaslighted, maybe on purpose, maybe by simple omission. There’s major cognitive dissonance here and it makes me uneasy.

FWIW, here’s a Twitter thread with some rough estimates of the potential impact.

Yeah, I hear you, and I also feel slightly gaslit by some of the shifts in the discourse, although I’m honestly not surprised by this one. I think that as the whole situation became more and more politicized, people on both ends of the political spectrum goaded each other into taking more extreme positions than the evidence really warranted. And sooner or later extreme positions run slap-bang up against reality, at which point most people figure out that they’re going to need to modify their views. (A really serious second wave, if it does occur, will probably put an end to the anti-mask silliness right quick.)

I hope to hell that it DOESN’T occur. But I look at these protests, absolutely massive protests, crowds of people who have clearly thrown to the wind the notion of social distancing. It’s for a good cause. OK. But let’s leave aside the cause. Is it, or isn’t it, safe to be packed together in huge crowds?

Does this mean we can start having baseball games again if all the players are tested for COVID (which I know the major league teams can afford) and if all attendees are required to wear masks?

Why not? I thought these masks were enough? Or aren’t they? The bandannas DON’T actually do jack shit to stop the virus?

I’m seeing a lack of critical thinking applied to these protests. I’m not gonna be the white guy who shits all over black peoples’ issues and lectures them about the safety of the protests. I WENT to one of the protests myself. But isn’t this a question someone should be asking?

Wearing even rudimentary masks may help stop an infected person infecting others. There seems to some suggestion that activities where large groups are very vocal - which has been sports events and singing - is a bad thing. Where we assume lots of aerosols are placed in the air, and infection is easy. For outdoor activities this seems to be the way infection occurs.

Chanting in a protest would normally be a good start for this, but even a bandanna is going to stop someone emitting aerosols.

None the less, it isn’t good. One might avoid protests becoming super-spreader events, but infections on a smaller scale may be expected.

But who determines those answers? Trump? Red state governors? And once you get those answers, they won’t do any good until they’re turned into action; then there’s no way to avoid making decisions between the virus and police brutality. Then what do you do?

That’s the question I keep coming back to. Obviously having large crowds increases the virus risk. So what does that mean? That the protests need to be suppressed for publicity health reasons, since the virus affects everyone and police brutality “only” affects minorities? Needless to say, I’m skeptical how that would go over. If people were to react badly to it, are they automatically “selfish” for putting the lives of others at risk? Are they now? I don’t see any way to “solve” this issue without passing judgment on the protests and protestors at SOME point.

I think part of the dissonance is that nobody really knows, yet – people are feeling their way through this because we don’t have any way to tell for sure how risky a large outdoor crowd is without trying the experiment. Presumably, we’re going to get a clearer answer to this question as more of these events occur, and when we do know more, we can use it to guide our decision-making about stuff like baseball.

But I’m not sure there’s anything inherently contradictory about saying that right now protests are OK but not sports matches. In a democracy, things like protesting and voting should probably be considered essential activities. It’s similar to how supermarkets stayed open throughout the shutdowns, but not other types of stores – shopping for food is not inherently safer than shopping for office supplies or clothes or furniture, it’s just that the consequences of shutting it down would be worse than the potential risk.

There’s lots of people writing about the dangers of coronavirus amid these protests. I haven’t seen too many major news outlets that haven’t reported on the likelihood of the increase in coronavirus cases due to the protests.


The protests are raising fears of a spike in coronavirus cases
Surgeon General warns of coronavirus outbreaks from Floyd protests


Protests could cause catastrophic setback for controlling coronavirus, experts say

The mayor of Atlanta, GA is saying that if you were at a protest, you should probably get tested.


Tear gas and protesting amid COVID-19: What you should know

Some people are saying that tear gas could increase the likelihood of the spread because of the coughing and also because it comprises people’s lungs.

USA Today
Experts warn large protests may ‘become breeding grounds’ for the coronavirus

MSN from US News

George Floyd Protests Likely to Cause Increase in Coronavirus Cases

I didn’t read all of these. I just skimmed the headlines because I’ve been seeing reports on this for days now.

Seems to me that there is a sort of international competition to open up economies to try keep up with nations that have a reasonable measure of control.

So we see S Korea, China, N Zealand and parts of Europe open up, meanwhile UK, US, Brazil are busy loosening restrictions right at the tipping point where control just might be achieved but really needs a few weeks to secure fully.

These protests could not have come at a worse time, the economic damage from a resumption of lockdown will be likely even more severe that the original lockdown period.

The virus does not care about politics, economics, ethics, personal feelings or racism - it will continue to circulate whenever given the opportunity.

We have a thread that roundly condemns the religiously fervent for their activities that fly in the face of common sense merely because GOD, and we have seen the results in the Hasidic and proselytizing Christian groups.

The virus only needs certain conditions to be met, the reasons behind the gatherings are irrelevant - its not going to be good.


heh. typed that way too fast.

I’m not really expecting much from the calm protesters who went home afterwards: I’m just not seeing clusters of infections from outdoor activities.

But protest lines jammed up in front of or against the police look dangerous, and not just because of the police presence.

I think it says something that the types of people most likely to be taking the coronavirus seriously are also the types of people who think that these protests are necessary. It shows the strength of their convictions, just like how people gathered for church show the strength of their convictions. I’m not convinced that protesting in the way that it’s being done is particularly safe in general; when you protest police brutality, you have to expect that the police will fight back against even the most peaceful of protestors, simply because the entire reason behind your protest is because the police are being unreasonable. This kind of stuff has been happening for so long that you have to think that they’re not going to change their ways simply because more people are protesting. The point of the protests is to convince those in power over the police to make the necessary changes in police culture to prevent this from happening, not to get the individual police officers themselves on your side (because a lot of them probably are already; those that aren’t probably aren’t going to be swayed but instead see a bunch of people they need to apply brutality to). That people have to expect that it’s going to be unsafe just from the possible conduct of police makes the problem of spreading coronavirus seem relatively modest, especially if people are at least wearing masks that prevent their exhaling from spreading beyond the inside of their mask.

I’m not sure if you can ask people to belay their redress of grievances until Covid is over. We have no idea when that will be.

When some of us took anti-lockdown protesters to task, I for one, specifically criticized their lack of masks and social distancing. If you are trying to show me that you are responsible enough to open up everything again, then you should be doing so by being responsible. Well, that and the armed storming of the state capital.

I know, I know, they can wait, it’s not like police brutality is going anywhere, right?

According to none other than Dr. Marten Luther King, Jr, that’s kinda the point. You want to provoke them to react unreasonably to show the problem, and make more people upset with them. That’s why he put children in the front lines–easier to get people to object to violence against them. His style of non-violent protest was in no way peaceful.

You act as if protest has never worked. But it has. It just doesn’t always work, and it never produces the perfect outcome. And, of course, we can backslide in important ways.

All I know is that there’s no way that the white youth in my town would have been pro-BLM back in the 1960s. Hell, I’m not sure they would have in the 1990s, as it’s only basically since Hurricane Katrina that we’ve had any permanent black residents to speak of.

Anyways, the point of that last paragraph is to show that things change. They just always change more slowly than we’d want.

Yes you ARE being gaslighted. I have been topic banned, so my response is muted. Suffice it to say: here is what it APPEARS is going on:
“Leftists” are rioting. The attempt is to BAIT the “Rightists” of the false dichotomy to RECIPROCATE the riots. When they are subject to unconstitutional lockdowns they go insane and and are more likely to act out. Once the “right” acts out, martial law will be enacted. That is my warning. “Rightists”: please do not act out. You are playing a waiting game. Wait out the BS. WAIT IT OUT. Then the lockdowns will peter out. Their best efforts will have failed. And we can go back to normal life. They are losing control of the narrative. Yes, due to the internet. The riots are CORPORATE controlled. If the “leftists” would only realize that they would turn to the right, really off the false dichotomy axis, and we could all go back to normal life.

Hoo boy.