Epidemiologists say the crowding conditions associated with mass police violence protests are likely to add dozens or maybe hundreds to the daily death toll from coronavirus infections.
However, they recognize that these types of assessments involve a compromise between public health and social justice.
"Racism and state-sponsored violence are important public health issues," said Trevor Bedford, a computer biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. wrote in a weekend series of tweets. "We should also recognize that the specific action taken by large-scale public protests at this moment during the COVID-19 pandemic may result in more than 10 but fewer than 100 deaths per day."
In response to the feedback, Bedford later revised his estimate to a "highly speculative" guess at more than 50 but fewer than 500 additional deaths for every day of protest.
Bedford and other coronavirus trackers pointed out that the protests are taking place in the wake of a widespread relaxation of the strict rules for social distance and business activities. It is all the more difficult to find out the specific causes of a probable upswing in infections.
"The protests and the potential for virus transmission are against the background of a general social opening." Bedford said. "It feels like we've largely given up control of the epidemic and resigned ourselves to living alongside it."
"The casinos are crowded inside, and I bet most players don't wear masks," said Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch observed in a tweet. "How many transmissions are there? At the Lake of the Ozarks (scream again, push, no masks)? Etc.?"
Researchers expect the effects of virus-spreading events to affect case statistics about two to three weeks later. The table for active COVID-19 cases in the USA was created shows an increase since June 4th, but it is not yet clear if this is a solid trend. For example, statistics about new cases every day still show a relatively steady up and down in a weekly cycle.
The groups organizing the protests, along with public health officials, have called on the demonstrators to take precautions against the spread of viruses. For example, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County has put together one Safety instructions that corresponds to that Recommendations from Public Health – Seattle & King County – With additional twists.
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"In a protest, it is sometimes impossible to stay a meter away from other demonstrators," said Black Lives Matter's security guide. “To limit your exposure, wear a face mask, gloves, and even cover your hair. For further protection, cover as much visible skin as possible without affecting your vision. "
The guide also urges demonstrators to regularly quarantine and monitor symptoms for 14 days after attending a group meeting. "If you show symptoms, get tested IMMEDIATELY," it says. (Tests are available from health care providers or from more than 15 free COVID-19 test sites in King County.)
You should stay away from any kind of gathering if you feel sick.
Do all of these security measures make such a big difference? Yes, after a statistical study published today in the journal Nature.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley collected data on infections from the United States, China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and France – and looked for correlations with 1,717 policies implemented in these six countries.
They concluded that travel restrictions, on-site orders, closings, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions prevented around 530 million infections In a period up to April 6, approximately 62 million of these infections would have been identified as confirmed cases because there were limited testing options available at the time, the researchers said.
Some feared that focusing on the risks associated with large gatherings would mitigate the impact of the protests.
“Both the pandemic and the brutality of the police, along with other forms of violent systemic racism, are disproportionately killing black Americans. They are also serious symptoms of the underlying inequality. Both urgently require solutions. " Penn State epidemiologist Nita Bharti tweeted.
Response to the Bedford and Lipsitch tweets, Bharti said“It seems unnecessary and misleading to assign ridiculously large numbers here. … There is no "choice" between the inequality of the pandemic and the protests. "
Bedford acknowledged this concern, but hoped that the scientists could at least carry out a reality check for the experts who appeared in the protests.
"My estimates / guesses stem from the fact that after protests I saw massive spikes and wanted to do my best to justify some estimates (even if they are speculative)," he wrote. "If the (epidemiological) modeling community leaves this as a vacuum, it will be filled with recordings from experts."
Update for 2.45 p.m. PT June 8: The Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Today it was found that the daily number of coronavirus cases exceeded 136,000 on June 7th "most in a single day so far". He said "complacency is now the greatest threat for many countries," but he also addressed global protests against racism:
“WHO fully supports equality and the global movement against racism. We reject any discrimination. We encourage everyone who protests around the world to do so safely. Keep at least 1 meter away from others as much as possible, clean your hands, cover your cough, and wear a mask when attending a protest. "