We All Knew A Second Wave Was Coming. Could The Protests Accelerate That?

Crowds of protesters gathered at Wynwood on Friday, June 5 to call out police brutality. Jesse Fraga/PantherNOW

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

America has entered another hectic week, as protests in response to the murder of George Floyd continue with full force, coronavirus cases tick up and leadership in Washington struggles to effectively respond.

Despite gaining widespread support and now reaching all fifty states, the George Floyd protests are raising fears of a second coronavirus wave arriving sooner than expected.

It is a difficult decision to make whether or not one protests, and I fully acknowledge that. Most people are rightfully beyond outraged at the way black Americans have been treated in our society. However, the protests are large and tightly packed, defying safety recommendations—and even healthcare workers are taking part in them.

Cases of the virus are ticking up in many states, with 14 of them and Puerto Rico hitting their highest seven-day average of new cases this week. Eight in 10 Americans are concerned about protests increasing transmission, an Axios-Ipsos poll found. And leading experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci have expected a second wave this autumn.

Robert Crohan/PantherNOW

Only science can provide a reasonable explanation for what to expect. Indeed, this virus has proven extremely unpredictable, so we should be seeking new information constantly.

Studies have shown that enacting social distancing measures earlier could have saved thousands of lives. However, the virus does not last long in the sun. One study in Japan found that transmission is 19 times more likely indoors than outdoors. Therefore, it can be assumed that a protest on a hot June day is safer than a crammed air-conditioned restaurant.

Still, many have warned that protests being outside is not guaranteed to limit transmission.

Researchers have debated the risks online, with expert Trevor Bedford claiming that each protest would result in up to 3,000 infections and 500 deaths being lauded. Bedford also noted that if widespread testing could track confirmed cases, the protests would not be as dangerous. 

Others decried the studies as a way for those opposing civil rights movements to strike down the protests, especially as black Americans disproportionately die from the virus. As demonstrated, the timing of these events could not be worse and could stall progress against both the disease and racial inequities.

Many in the black community would argue that we must not abandon this moment ripe for true change. Therefore, there are things we can do to stay safe while protesting: wear masks, try to protest in the heat of the day, limit yelling, demand police cease the use of tear gas and arrests (both of which increase vulnerability to the virus), and try to stay apart. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York encouraged protesters to “assume” they have been exposed to the virus and get tested.

We will not know right away the impact of the protests on the virus’ transmission, as it takes up to two weeks for symptoms to appear. In 1918, parades led to a second wave of the Spanish Flu, which trumped the first one. Although the viruses are different in many ways, COVID-19 spreads very easily nonetheless.

With the arguably worse plague of racism, protests for change will continue, and those who care passionately must decide the best course of action. Hopefully, we can band together to prevent the spread of coronavirus elsewhere. 

If we can demand equality by doing our part to protect the most vulnerable in our society, we can emerge better and stronger from these twin disasters.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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