Herd immunity as is relates to COVID-19 is a complex topic, as evidenced in this Q & A out of the Bloomberg School of Health at Johns Hopkins University. But here I refer to an unplanned and unintended twist on the theme initiated by mass protests that have erupted over the homicide of George Floyd. It has generated a situation where those who wish to make their voices heard are immune from all the constraints placed on public gatherings and social distancing.
In his daily coronavirus briefing yesterday, Governor Cuomo gave the advice of taking a step back and gaining perspective on the intersection between COVID-19 and the massive civil unrest. He reminded viewers that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic: “Express your outrage but be responsible, because the last thing we want to do is to see a spike in the number of Covid cases”.
Every day seems to grow in complexity. Regarding the effectiveness of the police in dealing with a nearly untenable situation, the New York City Mayor acknowledged: “There’s a lot of things that have to be done better, a lot of things have to be fixed”. Reports are that anarchy has run rampant, and that even when looters are arrested they are released immediately due to bail reform laws implemented earlier this year. Law authorities acknowledge that protection of life and prevention of violence to individuals are being prioritized over protection of property. In some segments of the community looting is justified as quite understandable, perhaps even an admirable form of protest, as expressed in this essay written after the Ferguson riots.
There is considerable irony here. Weddings involving social gatherings can only be held outdoors, but limited to groups of 10 people in New York and 25 people in New Jersey within a defined space, because of public health concerns. I know because I’ll be attending my granddaughter’s wedding next week in the yard of her parent’s home. We are celebrating rather than protesting that day, and if excessive numbers of people participate I suspect the police would arrive, no doubt alerted by a concerned neighbor. Every day seems to grow in complexity.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that protest gatherings could become “super-spreader events”, similar to the 1918 flu pandemic when large public gatherings led to a second, more deadly wave of infections. That caution was echoed at the end of this news clip from ABC News (Australia):
“But lurking amongst the thousands mobilizing around the country is an unseen enemy. The risk of COVID-19 silently spreading through the crowds is frighteningly real.” And after a quote from Dr. Deborah Birx, the correspondent concludes: “One man’s brutal death, one way or another, could cost many more lives in the weeks ahead.”