“California is on the cusp of 5,000 COVID-19 deaths as more businesses reopen,” the June 12, 2020 Los Angeles Times headline reads. It’s just one of many similar headlines the paper ran this week, each blaming the county’s increase in Wuhan Flu diagnoses and deaths on “reopening of the economy” and not on transmission between hordes of unmasked, socially-undistanced protesters and rioters.
Here are a few more headlines:
June 7: “L.A. County coronavirus cases near 64,000 amid protests and reopenings”
June 8: “Coronavirus transmission rate climbing in L.A. County as economy reopens, old routines return”
June 9: “A perilous balancing act: Reopening L.A. County as coronavirus still stalks communities”
June 10: “Who gets the blame if California sees major new coronavirus outbreaks with reopening?”
Is a pattern emerging?
A June 14 headline, though, is the kicker:
“LAPD packed arrested protesters in confined space for hours, heightening coronavirus risk”
The story excerpt on the Times’ home page makes the paper’s editorial aim glaringly obvious:
“In Southern California, some ask if the police response might do more to get people sick than the protests themselves.”
In the interest of fairness, I’ll give the Times credit for this June 4 headline:
“California coronavirus cases surpass 120,000; protests, closed testing sites worry health officials”
The June 12 article reported daily coronavirus infection and death data gained from county and state public health officials as of Thursday, June 10 and pointed out that both the state and Los Angeles County had their largest one-day increase in new cases since the pandemic began.” Eventually the reporter admits that 600 of LA County’s 1,850 new cases “were from a backlog of test results.”
Well, hell, that last factoid changes everything. That brings the true new case rate for that day down to 1,250, which is in line with what had been reported over prior weeks; for the week ending June 4 the county averaged 1,405 new cases a day. (Given that the county entered a new phase of reopening May 25 and the Black Lives Matter protests began May 26, those results wouldn’t reflect infections from reopening OR protests/riots.)
It’s as if they’re so anxious to see a spike in cases due to those dumb conservatives getting on with their lives that they’ll cling to one (ultimately meaningless) statistic and even lie to their readers about the trajectory and the daily numbers.
Placing the blame on a purported spike in Kung Flu cases on reopening is risky, though, since everyone in LA saw the riot crowds on TV and might think the Social Justice Approved™ protests caused said spike. Never fear, dear reader. In a June 9 article headlined “California coronavirus cases remain on upward trajectory” the Times disabuses you of that notion:
The latest rise in cases cannot be linked to the thousands who have taken to the streets in the last week to protest the police killing of George Floyd and racial inequality. The incubation period for the virus can be up to 14 days, so numbers currently reported generally reflect actions from previous weeks, officials have said.
People who speed read the above paragraph might miss the major qualifiers included, such as “can be” and “generally” – which contrast with the definitive declaration that the rise “cannot” be linked to riots.
By looking at the science and timelines it’s apparent that any rise in cases can absolutely be linked to riots and protesting.
Los Angeles’ rash of protests began Wednesday, May 27 when a crowd blocked the 101 Freeway near downtown then marched on LAPD headquarters.
— NBC 7 San Diego (@nbcsandiego) May 28, 2020
The protests continued through the weekend, with large crowds in DTLA on Friday, May 29, and major protests/riots in the Fairfax district on May 30.
Thousands gathering at LA's Pan Pacific Park for @BLMLA's protest right now. Whereas last night's riots were in downtown LA, this neighborhood is slightly more bougie & white. #BLMLA pic.twitter.com/ww5qakTKyk
— Yoonj Kim (@YoonjKim) May 30, 2020
… and in Santa Monica and Long Beach on May 31.
#BlackLivesMatter Protests started peaceful but within 2 hours looting started along Broadway and 2nd Street affecting Vans Shoes & Santa Monica Place. One part of protest ended peacefully on Ocean Ave. Another took tear gas and rubber bullets to end it. @KNX1070 pic.twitter.com/rSsKK3lmuI
— Pete Demetriou (@knxpete) June 1, 2020
Crazy how the Long Beach protests didn’t get any media coverage until people started looting. Forget broadcasting these lovely photos of our city’s peaceful protest, but as soon as a store’s front window is broken, all of a sudden, Long Beach is all over Channel 7… pic.twitter.com/Gw6SxDeot7
— ‘97 👐🏽 (@jamienaea) June 1, 2020
Then on Monday, June 1, a large protest occurred in Van Nuys, in addition to ongoing protests in Westwood, Hollywood, and downtown Los Angeles.
I’m back at the protest in Van Nuys. There are several CHP officers here standing at Van Nuys Boulevard.
There is a lot of confusion among protesters about the curfew. Many still think it is at 5 p.m, instead of the corrected 6 p.m. time. pic.twitter.com/uXquVHCTwD
— Jaclyn Cosgrove (@jaclyncosgrove) June 1, 2020
Student-led march at @UCLA today for #GeorgeFloyd, Black lives, a Black Student Resource Center, and an Administration that never again allows public education facilities like UCLA Jackie Robinson Stadium and others as police staging sites. pic.twitter.com/Ksh69z21q8
— Andrés (@_andresLA) June 4, 2020
That’s a LOT of people (more than 100,000, according to media accounts) who traveled to the protest sites between May 26 and June 4, were possibly exposed, then went back to their own neighborhoods to potentially infect others. It was this exact possible scenario Gavin Newsom cited as justification for shutting down Orange County beaches in early May when he declared it was his job to keep Californians safe and that he had to protect us from ourselves. Apparently that’s not his job anymore, since he just allowed all of those people to put their lives at risk.
So, about that incubation period. In contrast to what the LA Times’ epidemiological experts claim, here’s the current CDC information on incubation period and symptom onset:
“The incubation period for COVID-19 is thought to extend to 14 days, with a median time of 4-5 days from exposure to symptoms onset….
“One study reported that 97.5% of persons with COVID-19 who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
Extrapolating those numbers to our timeline, a big chunk of the people who became infected with coronavirus after “peacefully protesting” between May 27 and June 1 would have developed symptoms between May 31 and June 6.
Assuming they followed the recommendations of public health officials, they would have been tested within a day of symptom onset and received their results in one to three days. Assuming it took three days, results would have been available between June 4 and June 10.
It should be noted that many businesses that would have been involved in phase 2 reopening during the week of May 25 (and beyond) were either unable to due to civil unrest or had limited operations between May 26 and June 8 due to the imposition of a countywide curfew.
Can one definitively state that the reported rise* in coronavirus cases in Los Angeles is entirely due to infections acquired through participation in riots or protests? Of course not. We’ll never have data showing that either, since LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer assured people that they would not be asked whether they’d participated in those activities during the coronavirus testing process. Like the LA Times “journalists,” “Doctor” Ferrer has no interest in gathering or disseminating data that might take away from her preferred political and policy outcome.
* LA County reported 1,003 new cases on June 14. Unbelievably, the article contains this sentence: “The number of new cases reported by the county each day has continued to rise, topping 1,000 each day last week except for Monday…”