A month ago, health experts across the country saw people flock to the streets, often shoulder to shoulder protests for racial justice – and they were concerned.
Many had previously raised concerns that state and local governments are moving too fast to open up various parts of the economy, particularly bars and restaurants, potentially exacerbating the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Now thousands of people were often close together, many shouting loudly and protesting the death of George Floyd in detention by the Minneapolis Police Department. Some protesters who may be carrying the virus may project droplets of moisture onto the airways even farther than when speaking normally.
“It makes me wince on several levels,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti, a North Carolina-based infectious disease doctor, told NBC News in late May. “It is a setup for the further spread of COVID-19. It’s heartbreaking. “
Similar words came from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, who said large gatherings such as protests are “perfect preparation for the virus to spread.”
Their fears have yet to be recognized. Studies and reports say that so far there is little evidence that protests are related to the spread of the coronavirus.
Health and government officials see bars and restaurants that they treat as super spreaders of the disease differently.
“Why bars? There are thousands of protesters accusing bars, ”said Rachel Dymond, co-owner of the Kearny Mesa Carriage House, this week after San Diego County forced her to close her bar for the second time along with others.
This is an understandable question, and not just because it came from a frustrated business owner. Some of the previous decisions about what to close and what could be left open during the coronavirus pandemic seemed inconsistent.
If anything has been learned about the mysterious virus, the thing is that judgments of how it behaves don’t always hold up as more information comes out.
However, recent, more extensive contact tracing has resulted in more solid data to support decisions not just in San Diego but across the country.
Meanwhile, politically tinged questions and allegations – some misinformation – about decision-making in the county have been raised on social media and some conservative news media.
Much of it was directed against county supervisor Nathan Fletcher, a Democrat who has become the face of the county’s coronavirus response. He warned against reopening too soon and supports the current cut.
“Where were you during the protests? This is where the surge in the spread of Covid-19 came from non-small businesses! “Autumn Frank-Stuff, a self-described conservative, wrote on Twitter.
The dates do not match.
Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of the county’s epidemiology division, said Tuesday that a total of 29 people who tested positive participated in a protest to show symptoms within 14 days – the incubation window. The county has had more than 14,500 COVID-19 cases.
The county had attributed no outbreaks in the community to protests as of Thursday afternoon, though officials note there may be delays before one is discovered.
Bars, restaurants, and in-house social gatherings are a different matter. They accounted for 40 percent of these outbreaks, a number that, according to the district, does not include any outbreaks in healthcare or community care facilities.
A community outbreak consists of three or more cases from different households under contract in the same location.
None had been linked to previous protests calling for the cancellation of home stay orders, although a contract tracking system was being set up when they were taking place.
At the time, some critics of these protests asked the authorities why the protesters were not being led by law enforcement for violating coronavirus restrictions.
In the COVID-19 policy bubble, the lack of action against those protesting the stay at home and closure decrees has been widely criticized by the left, while criticism whether the coronavirus tracing adequately includes protests against social justice , tends to come up from the right.
Health experts have suggested that the lack of outbreaks related to the recent demonstrations may be due to the fact that many protesters were wearing masks, but many were not. Research has shown that wearing masks and being with people outdoors rather than indoors reduces the risk of the virus spreading.
Masks were not as common in the smaller, reopened protests, which also took place outdoors.
San Diego County officials found this week that no community outbreak has been related to outdoor activities, including those on beaches, parks, and hiking trails.
This could explain why the county did not team up with other jurisdictions like Los Angeles and Orange counties as of Thursday lunchtime to close beaches for the July 4th weekend, fearing crowds would gather on the coast.
This is also a reason why some non-grocery establishments, such as B. wineries can still offer alcohol outdoors. The county otherwise restricted the operations and hours of operation of restaurants and bars that serve food and closed tavernas that did not.
The trend in San Diego has been observed nationwide. Outbreaks have been linked to tight indoor gatherings where alcohol is often used. According to official sources, this can affect people’s judgment about adherence to social distancing protocols, among other things.
All of this will continue to be closely watched and discussed when the summer is in full swing.
Public health and livelihoods may be at stake, but running out of drinks and conducting protests is as American as it was on July 4th – even during a pandemic.