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Gov. Inslee: ‘Evidence is pretty strong’ protests haven’t increased spread of COVID-19

Protesters march near the King County Juvenile Detention Center, Saturday, July 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Gov. Jay Inslee commented Thursday on balancing protests calling for police reform with risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the potential coronavirus risk of mass protests?

Inslee emphasized that he continues to urge demonstrators to observe social distancing and wear masks during protests “in every circumstance.” That being so, he pointed out that recent data showed that of roughly 5,000 people who cited attendance at a protest as a reason for getting a COVID test in Washington, roughly one-tenth of 1% were positive for the virus.

“The evidence is pretty strong that the protests have not been a reason for the pandemic increasing, and that may be because, from my observation, most people are wearing a mask,” he noted.

That’s backed up by research touted by several sources, including one recent paper, which found “no evidence that urban protests reignited COVID-19 case growth during the more than three weeks following protest onset.”

No rise yet in coronavirus cases from protest crowds

In terms of the larger causes protesters have been pushing for, Inslee hearkened to recently-passed civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis.

“I just have to think what John Lewis would think of this — he was someone who said you need to stand up to injustice, you can’t ignore it, you can’t wish it away, and you should be willing to stand up,” Inslee said.

Protests calling to defund the Seattle Police Department will likely continue in the days ahead, with rallies scheduled each day for at least the next week.

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