There is little evidence that the protests that erupted after George Floyd’s death caused a significant increase in U.S. coronavirus infections, according to public health experts.
If the protests had driven an explosion in cases, experts say, the jumps would have started to become apparent within two weeks — and perhaps as early as five days. But that didn’t happen in many cities with the largest protests, including New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.
In what’s considered the first systematic look at the question, a team of economists determined that only one of 13 cities involved in the earliest wave of protests after Memorial Day had an increase that would fit the pattern.
It was Phoenix, where experts say cases and hospitalizations surged after a decision by Gov. Doug Ducey to end Arizona’s stay-at-home order on May 15 and eased restrictions on businesses. Arizona residents who were cooped up for six weeks flooded Phoenix-area bar districts, ignoring social distancing guidelines.
In many cities, the protests actually seemed to lead to a net increase in social distancing, as more people who did not protest decided to stay off the streets, said that study’s lead author, Dhaval Dave of Bentley University.
“The large-scale protests can impact both the behavior of the protesters and the behavior of the non-protesters,” said Dave. The paper was released last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, but has not been published by a peer-reviewed journal.
Drawing from data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, The Associated Press reviewed trends in daily reported cases in 22 U.S. cities with protests. It found post-protest increases in several cities — including Houston and Madison— where experts say other factors were more likely the main drivers.
Health officials are still investigating case surges in different states, and more data may come in. But experts believe that if the protests did have a big impact on cases, stronger signs would be apparent now.
Floyd, who was Black, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground. His death touched off protests around the United States. Coincidentally, some states had begun to lift social distancing restrictions in late May.
Dave and his colleagues counted protests over three weeks in 281 cities with populations of at least 100,000. Most had protests lasting more than three days, and many had protests that had at least 1,000 participants.
It’s not clear how many protesters participated, let alone how many of them wore masks or got tested after. That likely varied from place to place.
Houston is among a number of Texas cities that have recently seen steep increases in cases and hospitalizations. Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of the county health department, believes it likely some cases could be traced to the protests.
“We just don’t know how much,” he said.
But it’s hard to measure the protests’ precise impact for a number of reasons, Shah and others said. Earlier business reopenings and more willingness to shrug off social distancing guidelines started the trend in the Houston area, Shah said.
Another factor: Many people don’t get tested unless they feel symptoms. Many protesters were young adults, who generally are less likely to get severe illness, and therefore may not have gotten tested, experts said.
And some who do get tested may still not answer all the questions they are asked by outbreak investigators.
“I know of three people who told us ‘Yes, I was at a protest.’ That doesn’t mean there was not another 25 or more who did attend a protest and just did not share that with us,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, the public health commissioner for the city of Columbus, Ohio.
That city has seen increased cases in the last month, but health officials say they can’t attribute it to any particular reason other than people socializing and returning to normal activities without wearing masks or taking other precautions. So far, protests don’t seem to be a real factor.
“Most of the protests, at least in my jurisdiction, were outside,” and the virus does not spread as well outside, Roberts said. “And I would say 50% of those at the protests were wearing a face mask.”
Pain and protest: Madison responds to the police killing of George Floyd
Protests erupted across the country, including Madison, to condemn the police-related death of a Minneapolis man May 25. Here's a look at local coverage so far.
Protests erupted across the country, including Wisconsin, to condemn the police-related death of a Minneapolis man, George Floyd, on May 25. H…
After demonstrators against racial injustice toppled the “Forward” and Hans Christian Heg statues last Tuesday at Capitol Square, community members have grappled with whether the art should be restored or replaced entirely.
“It’s kind of beautiful how you can show what you’re doing through a peaceful form like art,” Lowell fifth-grader Nelson Lashley said.
Madison officials are struggling to protect protesters' First Amendment rights while keeping citizens and property safe amid continuing protests Downtown.
Two groups for students of color say Abraham Lincoln's history as anti-Indigenous and anti-Black warrant replacing him with someone who "who stands for the justice of all people."
Man arrested for involvement in toppling of Civil War statue; activist charged with extortion.
Several State Street business owners said the disturbance at Coopers Tavern was not an isolated incident.
The statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg, torn down by protesters at the state Capitol on June 23, honors a Norwegian immigrant from Wisconsin wh…
Protesters knocked down two statues Tuesday evening, one that has come to represent women's rights and the other honoring an abolitionist.
"The police department is hesitant because they don't feel that the City Council and definitely the mayor has their backs," Ald. Paul Skidmore said.
Some drivers ran through small crowds of protesters Tuesday, causing injuries among those who were supporting Black Lives Matter.
The School Board is voting Monday to remove police from high schools before fall, and the Madison City Council is expected to introduce a similar resolution to end the contract.
The poll also found former Vice President Joe Biden widening his lead over President Donald Trump in the state and a declining concern among Wisconsinites over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Madison School Board is creating a subcommittee to work toward removing police officers from schools, but opponents of police in schools are calling for more immediate action.
Protesters tore down statues of Forward and a Union Civil War colonel, assaulted a state senator and set a small fire in a city building Downtown on Tuesday night after the arrest of a Black activist seen causing a disturbance in a restaurant earlier in the day.
On June 23, protesters in Madison wrapped chains around “Forward,” the bronze statue of a woman located at the State Street corner of Capitol …
In the wake of COVID-19, riots and looting they're asking the street be turned into a temporary pedestrian mall, that subsidies be offered to new tenants filling vacant spaces; outdoor cafe and restaurant spaces be expanded and safety measures improved.
Madison mayor suggests person who hit 24-year-old Black woman might have committed a hate crime.
Natural light, customers and hope have begun to return on State Street. But uneasiness remains even as the plywood starts to come off the windows.
Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes unveiled Friday a package of bills that would ban the use of chokeholds by Wisconsin police officers, as well as limit other uses of force.
Communities with disproportionate numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths have other health struggles.
The Dane County Board on Thursday took a first step toward declaring racism a public health crisis. "First and foremost we have to recognize that there is an issue," Supervisor Shelia Stubbs said.
The announcement comes as protests nationwide, including in Madison, in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, continue into their third week.
The projectile launchers, which fire sponge rounds, were used against protesters during the first two days of demonstrations and unrest in Madison.
The Madison Police and Fire Commission's attorney said two proposed police oversight measures could conflict with the commission's authority.
Many of the measures were initiated after the shooting of Tony Robinson in 2015.
While much of the meeting was focused on police reform policy, the end turned into an emotional conversation about race and community healing.
Rhodes-Conway said in a statement Wednesday she "failed to center" a message of racial justice in a seemingly private video she sent to police expressing gratitude and sympathy.
In a statement Tuesday, Reyes said she will now support removing school resource officers from the high schools and plans to form a committee "to pursue a viable alternative to SROs in our buildings."
Day 10 of protests against police violence in Madison featured a grill out and block party, public defenders marching for black lives and "DEF…
Acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl said around 15 officers marched alongside protesters Sunday because they are also angry about George Floyd's death.
The crowd of around 100 attorneys took a knee outside of the Dane County Courthouse for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck.
Madison Teachers Inc. is reversing its stance on school resource officers, but is only calling for their removal if 33 new support staff positions are added at the high schools.
The march was yet another gathering of its kind in Madison and across the nation protesting police brutality and white supremacy after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Temporary paintings on plywood covering windows have turned the street into a pop-up gallery that is drawing crowds and making a statement in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.
A survey of 100 of the 152 businesses on the street indicates that about 40 likely won't reopen.
As a "week of action" in Madison after the police custody death of George Floyd wraps up, three organizing groups vowed Saturday to keep pursuing the abolition, and not reform, of current policing structures.
By the thousands, citizens of Madison and surrounding communities have hit the streets every day — and often well into the night — for the las…
Day seven of protests against police violence in Madison was a celebration of Breonna Taylor's life. Organizers hosted a barbecue and party at James Madison Park.
The seventh day of protests in Madison honored the birthday of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13. …
“These kids are the organizers,” said Ebony Anderson-Carter, 29. “This ain’t about me. It’s about them.”
The list is not comprehensive, as police continue to use video and other evidence to investigate crimes committed over the three nights.
"The Guard, I think, has done exactly what we asked them to do," Evers said.
On the fifth night of demonstrations in Downtown Madison, hundreds gathered at the top of State Street to celebrate and remember unarmed black people killed by police officers.
Also at the event, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County said it would hire 75 "peace keepers" to de-escalate tension with protesters and police.
The bill would ensure each law enforcement agency in the state has a use of force policy that meets certain requirements.
City Council members condemned the death of George Floyd, refused to extend a state of emergency and curfew, and moved to secure more oversight on the Madison Police Department
For three nights, business on and around State Street in Downtown Madison have been sitting ducks for those who have taken advantage of the up…
Following peaceful daytime protests, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway urges protesters to "stay home," and not engage in looting and other destructive behaviors.
People began looting and damaging State Street stores and other property just before 1 a.m. Tuesday.
For a second day in a row, protesters shut down John Nolen Drive in Madison as part of a demonstration against the police killing of George Fl…
Police reported there were multiple break-ins and looting at stores outside the Downtown as well.
Anti-police protests in Madison continued for a third day, with a crowd marching Downtown and shutting down John Nolen Drive. Local organizers…
Police were trying to stop looters from shattering glass at the restaurant Teddywedgers, 101 State St., and Tobacco Mart, 103 State St.
“This vandalism, all this other stuff is ridiculous,” Murphy said. “It makes no sense to me.”
Madison Downtown business owners found themselves cleaning up again Monday after protesters for a second night broke windows, looted businesse…
The driver was able to drive away and has not been apprehended, but several people took photos that have been shared with police, the center said.
A second night of tear gas and broken windows gripped Madison on the Capitol Square.
Hundreds of people defied Madison's curfew Sunday night and clashed with police Downtown, bringing more vandalism and tear gas for a second ni…
For a second night in a row, protesters clashed with police in Downtown Madison following a peaceful protest against the death of George Floyd…
Volunteers swept broken glass, scrubbed graffiti and helped city workers right toppled planters along the pedestrian mall, where Madison police said about 75 businesses were looted or damaged during the riot, in which a police squad car was torched.
A cleanup effort was underway Sunday morning on State Street where Madison police say approximately 75 businesses were damaged, looted or both.
A crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered peacefully on the state Capitol grounds in Madison on Saturday to condemn the death of George Floyd…
Madisonians took stock of damage and cleaned up Sunday after a night of destruction and looting in Downtown Madison. A peaceful protest Saturd…
There were signs early Sunday that the violence was spreading into other parts of the city.
A peaceful demonstration in Downtown Madison on Saturday to condemn the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned destructive later on State…
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