Yes, gathering in large crowds increases the risk of COVID infection. As always, you should weigh that risk against the importance of what you’re doing.
Many people have recently joined large groups to protest racial injustice. On one hand, close contact with many people, especially while shouting or coughing, increases your risk of catching or spreading COVID. On the other hand, many protesters are taking care to reduce their risk. They are protesting outside, maintaining social distancing, participating for a limited amount of time, and wearing face coverings.
Infectious disease experts, public health experts, and doctors generally agree that systemic and institutional anti-Black racism is real and deadly. The effects of such racism include the risk of death at the hands of the police, increased rates of HIV infection, higher rates of chronic illness, and greater risk of being infected by or dying of COVID-19. Dismantling systemic racism is a core part of medical and public health practice.
COVID risk isn’t all or nothing. So if you attend a protest, take these steps to reduce your risk of getting COVID:
- Wear a face covering or mask
- Wear eye protection to prevent injury
- Use hand sanitizer often
- Don't yell; use signs & noise makers instead
- Stick to a small group
- Keep 6 feet from other groups
- Protest outside
If you participate in protests, you should self-quarantine for fourteen days after to keep your friends and family safe.
COVID-19 remains a public health emergency. That has not changed. But many people are weighing their concerns about COVID against another public health emergency: the deadly effects of racism against Black and brown people.
Last update: June 4, 2020, 9:28 pm ET
Science review: ERS, JAB