Several Cities Admit Black Lives Matter Protests May Have Triggered COVID-19 Spike
Big-city mayors, officials acknowledge anti-police demonstrations contributed to surge
Several big-city mayors and officials have admitted that the recent Black Lives Matter anti-police protests and riots likely contributed to the following spike in COVID-19 cases.
In public statements and interviews over the weekend, officials in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Miami-Dade County, Florida, have indicated that the protests may have triggered the recent surge in new coronavirus cases.
Still, many officials declined to comment on the possible links.
Meanwhile, others – including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's office – disputed that the protests were connected to the issue.
"Based on our health indicators, which measure hospital admissions, number of people in ICU and percentage of New Yorkers testing positive, we have seen no indication of an uptick in cases," de Blasio's deputy press secretary, Avery Cohen, told Fox News.
WNBC reported on July 4 that "over the course of a week, New York's daily death toll has stayed constant, but its percentage of positive coronavirus cases rose four days straight."
New York City, though, has seen cases steadily decreasing over the last few months, while Los Angeles, Seattle, and Miami have seen recent spikes.
Responding to that report, Cohen asserted that the number of New Yorkers testing positive "remains at a steady 2 percent, far below the nationwide average," and that, "at this time, we do not believe there has been a resurgence in cases related to the protests, which reached their peak over a month ago."
Cohen's public Twitter feed explicitly praised the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraged mass protests.
One June 28 post retweeted by Cohen read: "Are you ready to flood the streets to fight for Black lives and against police brutality and reclaim our roots of pride?
"Join us today at 1 PM at FOLEY SQUARE."
New York officials were previously less tolerant of mass gatherings — at least, for certain religious groups.
In April, de Blasio told the Jewish community that "the time for warnings has passed" after he said a funeral gathering had violated social distancing guidelines.
New York's current position differs markedly from assessments by officials in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
Last Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti acknowledged that public protests likely were causing a coronavirus spike, just two days after claiming there wasn't "any conclusive evidence" showing a connection between the two.
De Blasio, like Garcetti, has defended demonstrators, saying they were participating in a "historical moment."
Are you ready to flood the streets to fight for Black lives and against police brutality and reclaim our roots of pride? Join us today at 1 PM at FOLEY SQUARE. #QueerLiberationMarch pic.twitter.com/vIXmV62meW— Reclaim Pride Coalition (@queermarch) June 28, 2020
"I talked again with Dr. Ferrer about that this morning," Garcetti said, referencing Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the L.A. County public-health director.
"She does think some of the spread did come from our protests," he added.
"It’s not the act of protesting — that’s a great and American thing to do no matter what your opinion is... but protesting without maintaining physical distancing, without wearing your mask, without having sanitizer – we just have to be smart.
"Whether you’re at a protest or at your home, whether in your workplace or whether you’re out shopping, these rules don’t change."
Cohen responded, "Los Angeles is facing a resurgence; we have seen no such equivalent in New York City."
New York’s governor, however, Andrew Cuomo, in June expressed concerns about the confluence of protests and the virus.
"If you were at a protest, go get a test, please."
But last month, after New York City hired 1,000 workers to conduct contact tracing to monitor the spread of coronavirus, de Blasio's office said they would not be explicitly asking people if they participated in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
De Blasio's spokeswoman, at the time, said “no person will be asked proactively if they attended a protest.”
Still, Cohen said this weekend that contact tracers were "not barred from asking positive cases about attending protests," and that "when identifying their close contacts, patients are asked if they attended any large gatherings or events."
"We remain overcautious," Cohen said.
"As we continue our phases reopening, we will continue to monitor our indicators closely for any potential resurgence."
By contrast, a spokesperson for Carlos A. Giménez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, told Fox News on Sunday the protests were a "contributing factor" to the local coronavirus spike.
Giménez "meets several times a week with his team of medical experts," the spokesperson, Patty Abril, responded in an email.
"Those experts have told him that, based on information in our local emergency rooms, the protests were a contributing factor, along with our community letting its guard down and not social distancing or wearing masks, as mandated.
"Graduation parties, house parties, and restaurants illegally turning into clubs after midnight all contributed to the spike."
The mayor had announced a curfew last week after it was determined that roughly 2,300 of Florida's 10,109 new coronavirus infections originated in Miami-Dade.
“This curfew is meant to stop people from venturing out and hanging out with friends in groups, which has shown to be spreading the virus rapidly,” Giménez said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's office directed Fox News to city health official James Apa, who downplayed the role of protests while still acknowledging they may have played a role in some new cases.
"No single exposure site has been the primary driver for our increase in cases," Apa said.
"Top contributors include infections from other people in households, essential workers being exposed on the job and infections within long term care facilities.
"From what we can tell, protests were not a major factor."
Pressed on whether protests could have contributed to the coronavirus upswing, Apa indicated that any impact was probably marginal.
"A small percentage of the total number of cases reported going to a protest, which may or may not mean they acquired it there," he said.
"Protests are not driving our upsurge in cases."
Durkan was reportedly outraged after Black Lives Matter protesters descended on her neighborhood to protest outside her home last week, however.
Durkan's laughable hypocrisy comes after the liberal mayor cheered on leftist protesters as they created the "cop-free" "Capitol Hill Organized Protest" or "CHOP" zone in a downtown area of the city last month.
When the protesters turned up on the doorstep of Mayor Durkan's mansion on Sunday afternoon, she soon changed her tune, however.
According to Durkan, the protests "put families and children at risk" when demonstrators gathered in her own affluent neighborhood.
The mayors of Atlanta, Minneapolis, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Oakland, San Francisco, Houston, and New Orleans have refused to comment regarding the potential that protests might have led to an increase in coronavirus cases.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey had previously warned that in-person worship services would be a "public-health disaster," disregarding constituents' concerns that he was violating their First Amendment rights.
In May, his administration began distributing masks to rioters, even though public gatherings of 10 or more were still ostensibly banned.
Frey also allowed a police station to burn, saying it was necessary to protect police and rioters.
The mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel Bowser, vowed $5,000 fines or 90 days in jail for anyone violating stay-at-home orders.
Weeks later, though, Bowser defended the protests: "We are grieving hundreds of years of institutional racism. ...
"People are tired, sad, angry, and desperate for change."