BLM protests - worth the Covid cost?

Debate and discussion on racism and related issues

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 4268
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:33 am
Location: Australia
Has thanked: 87 times
Been thanked: 169 times

BLM protests - worth the Covid cost?

Post #1

Post by Mithrae »

A September paper by the Institute of Labor Economics suggests that the 450,000 attendees of the Sturgis motorcycle rally in August might have caused many as 260,000 new Covid-19 cases nationwide over the subsequent month: "following the Sturgis event, counties that contributed the highest inflows of rally attendees experienced a 7.0 to 12.5 percent increase in COVID-19 cases relative to counties that did not contribute inflows."

Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd may have been the largest in US history, attended by at least 15 million people in over 4000 events, as of early July.

The two aren't directly comparable on a per capita basis, for a number of reasons:
- Most obviously, mask-wearing and Covid awareness was much more widespread among the often left-leaning protestors than among more individualist bikers and enthusiasts
- With nationwide attendees, the Sturgis rally had far more potential to spread the virus around different communities than mostly locally-attended protests
- And less obviously (as the same authors suggest in a different paper) the high-risk behaviour of protestors may have been offset by lower-risk behaviour among non-participants, notably staying at home rather than using congested roads or facing the perceived risk of violence from protestors or police.

Nevertheless it's difficult to ignore the fact of a sharp uptick in Covid cases beginning a couple of weeks after the protests began. In their paper analysing data from those first weeks, Dave and co suggest that the higher-risk behaviour of protestors versus lower-risk sheltering behaviour of non-protestors "could hypothetically cause a redistribution of public health benefits (and costs) across demographic groups." But unless there was zero or very low transmission from carriers among non-protestors, it seems to me that the immediate offsetting effect of lower transmission among non-protestors would diminish as protests became less frequent or less emotionally charged/threatening; hence in the longer-term, higher rates of transmission among and from protestors would simply be added to the returning-to-normal rates of transmission among non-protestors.
CovidUSA1.jpg (86.81 KiB) Viewed 448 times
CovidUSA2.jpg (62.53 KiB) Viewed 448 times

If the trend prior to that uptick had continued unchanged, it seems that the USA would have had fewer than 5 million Covid-19 cases at this point, or around 3 million less. We should note that other factors contributed to this uptick also; notably, a number of states were easing restrictions around this time... perhaps in some cases partly in response to the civil liberties challenge of permitting mass protest! But even if we were to (generously?) assume that only one-third of the increase in Covid cases following the first and biggest waves of protest were caused by those protests, that would still imply that perhaps 1 million or around one-eighth of the USA's Covid cases can be reasonably traced back to the BLM movement.

If so, that would imply in turn that somewhere in the order of 25,000 deaths have been a (fairly predictable) consequence of these mass protests, so far.

Was it or is it worth it?

User avatar
Posts: 7157
Joined: Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:01 am
Location: Third Stone
Has thanked: 1290 times
Been thanked: 1514 times

Re: BLM protests - worth the Covid cost?

Post #2

Post by Tcg »

Mithrae wrote: Fri Oct 09, 2020 5:24 am Was it or is it worth it?
This is an important question, but it can't be answered unless we can determine what the BLM protests have or will accomplish.

To date:

- A few confederate statues have been removed

- A number of long established products have changed their names

- The racist nature of a few Hollywood movies has been brought into light

- The nature of police interaction with people of color is under greater scrutiny

Will any of these result in substantial and long-lasting changes to racist attitudes? If not, I don't think it is worth the cost. This is not to say the protests are not based on valid concerns, but rather that something other, something more needs to be done. The protests have highlighted the problems, but I'm not sure they've done anything to resolve them. Perhaps other steps will be taken as a result of the attention they've brought, but I haven't seen that yet.

To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

- American Atheists

Not believing isn't the same as believing not.

- wiploc

I must assume that knowing is better than not knowing, venturing than not venturing; and that magic and illusion, however rich, however alluring, ultimately weaken the human spirit.

- Irvin D. Yalom

Post Reply