Protests led to spike in coronavirus infection - report

Have protests led to an increase in the spread of coronavirus?
(photo credit: CANVA.COM)

Researchers looked at two parameters: the estimated period for infection growth rate and the five-day abnormal infection growth rate.

A spike in coronavirus cases was recorded in at least eight US cities following the George Floyd protests, a report published last month by three American researchers has found.
“Relationship of George Floyd protests to increases in COVID-19 cases using event study methodology,” was released in the Journal of Public Health and showed that Atlanta, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix and Seattle had positive abnormal returns in the three weeks after the first day of protests.
Prof. Gabi Barbash, a former Health Ministry director-general and a regular health analyst for Israel’s Channel 12, mentioned the study on the evening news Wednesday night.
“My view on the demonstrations is only slightly influenced by this report,” Barbash told The Jerusalem Post. “My belief is that demonstrations should be stopped because of the... increased risk of transmission during the gatherings, and also for public visibility.”
These US scientists used “event study methodology” to determine the abnormal growth rate that can directly be attributed to the George Floyd protests, taking an estimation period of 30 days – the days after the stay-at-home order was rescinded or expired.
Researchers looked at two parameters: the estimated period for infection growth rate and the five-day abnormal infection growth rate.
Data for each parameter were readily available on the Google search engine by entering the name of the city and the parameters studied, they said. All of the cities had reopened for at least 30 days before the protests in order to account for an increase in infections due to reopening. Also, each had documented protests in the tens of thousands.
“Comparing the actual growth rate of infections to the expected growth rate that was comprised by the 30-day estimation period after there were no stay-at-home orders in place, it was found that Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Phoenix and Houston showed significant abnormal returns, while Seattle and New Orleans had positive but insignificant returns,” the researchers wrote.
Seattle and New Orleans were two cities in the data set that had previously been designated as hot spots.
“These cities may have benefited from some degree of herd immunity or social awareness of the serious consequences from this viral infection,” the report said.
The researchers concluded that their research “advocates strongly for continued social distancing, as the protests did not follow social distancing guidelines.”
Tens of thousands of Israelis have been turning out to protest against government corruption and the country’s mishandling of the pandemic for the past several months. Barbash said on Channel 12 that not enough data has yet been collected on how Israel’s infection rate is manifested by the protests.
“With 6,700(!) infected in a day, the time has come to say enough demagoguery!” tweeted Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich (Blue and White). “Protesters, just like worshipers, are not immune to infection. The same health rules must apply to everybody.”

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