While many state and local governments across the country are now demanding that all Americans wear masks whenever they go out in public, protesters and rioters have been given a pass by officials, who even applaud them for exercising their First Amendment rights.
The mask requirements have been in place for weeks in some areas, months in others. But they don’t seem to be having much effect, judging from the breathless reports from the mainstream media that confirmed cases of COVID-19 are spiking.
Now comes a new study that claims the protests — in which many people without masks marched elbow to elbow down city streets — actually slowed the spread of the virus.
“A new study by a nationwide research team that includes a University of Colorado Denver professor has found something surprising: The protests may have slowed the overall spread of the coronavirus in cities with large demonstrations, including Denver,” The Colorado Sun reported.
“We think that what’s going on is it’s the people who are not going to protest are staying away,” said Andrew Friedson, the CU-Denver professor who is one of the paper’s co-authors. “The overall effect for the entire city is more social distancing because people are avoiding the protests.”
Friedson said his paper doesn’t try to figure out whether the protests spread the virus among the people at the protest. Instead, he said the research took the bigger-picture view: What did the protests mean for overall transmission of the virus within the entire community?
The study looked at 315 American cities with populations of more than 100,000 and found that 281 of those cities saw protests. The remaining 34 cities that did not see protests — which, at the time, included Aurora — were used as a control group against which to measure the impact of the protests. “Public speech and public health did not trade off against each other in this case,” the authors wrote in the paper.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said state officials just don’t know why cases of the virus are rising, even though the uptick is coming just a few short weeks after the massive protests, many of which drew thousands of people who did not abide by social distancing requirements.
“We don’t have the direct causation of this uptick,” Polis told reporters last week, although he did note that some people who have tested positive for COVID-19 attended protests. Still, he blamed part of the outbreak on people who don’t practice social gatherings, saying “we hope this is a trend that is reversed in our state.”
And on Monday, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that the rising number of cases is not connected to protests. “We have not seen any clear association between the protests and an increase in cases,” the spokesman said.
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