Protesting in the time of COVID

By Coleman Bandy

To make your voice heard or to stay safe? To protest the many atrocities that police commit against the black community, or to stay at home out of harm’s way? It’s a question plaguing thousands of protesters across the country, the correct answer lying somewhere in the ambiguous margins between house arrest and unbridled, reckless protest-en-masse.

The truth of the matter is that in protesting the unconscionable murder of George Floyd, well-meaning community members may cause the further death of thousands of people across the country, most notably in communities of color. Even when proper precautions are taken – masks, Purell, etc. – COVID never discriminates. When large numbers of people come together, the disease will spread. Full stop.

But is it not this attitude that got us here in the first place? It’s easy to stay home, to stay silent, when communities of color are being ransacked by police across the United States. We’ve reached a point of no return, where the preponderance of evidence against officers of the law has boiled over into the streets, sending angry protesters of all colors and creeds out in full force to scream it loud for the entire nation to hear: BLACK LIVES MATTER.

The situation is horrible one from nearly every angle. Though COVID is starting to recede in major cities like New York, smaller ones like Joplin have seen cases double in the past two weeks. As of this writing, there are 130 known cases in Jasper County, 105 in Newton County, and 44 known cases within Joplin city limits and likely many more that remain untested. Every unmasked shopper, inattentive parent, and yes, unconcerned protestor risks spreading the disease even more. So what’s the answer?

The right response likely lies in an untidy gray area where protesters voice their concerns while still taking the right precautions. Go out, but wear your masks, if not for yourself, then for others. Keep your hands clean. Refrain from touching and hugging your friends. Though it’s easy to throw all caution to the wind when your anger threatens to overtake all rationality, it’s important to stay aware of your local coronavirus numbers and only go out when it’s absolutely necessary. Perhaps these protests fall under that ‘necessary’ banner. In that case: take to the streets, but always be aware of the risks involved.

Here’s what experts say about preventing the spread of COVID-19 for protestors:

  • Safety Starts in the Streets – When you are out protesting, prevent infection by wearing a mask as well as eye protection. Goggles are ideal but even glasses or sunglasses help. Anything is better than nothing.


  • Wash Up – The first thing you should do when you get home is take a shower, throw your clothes in a laundry basket or washing machine. If you’re using a cloth mask, be sure to wash that too.


  • Get Tested – If possible, get tested 5-7 days after protesting. Studies have found this is the median incubation time for the virus.


  • Practice social distancing, even at home – Especially if you can’t get tested, stay six feet or more away from people in your home particularly if they are over 50 years old. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces often.


  • Wear masks, even indoors – Wear a mask any time you’re around others, even in your house. If you live with someone who is high risk, try to convince them to wear a mask too.


  • Hold off on hugs – After protesting, avoid hugs, kisses, and physical intimacy for 10 to 14 days, especially if you can’t get tested.


Taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 isn’t easy, but it’s worth it when it means standing up for justice is at stake.



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