The Forever Lockdown

Let’s start with one simple fact.  COVID-19 does not care if you are in a supermarket, getting your hair done, getting your car serviced, visiting the doctor, or out protesting.  This disease only discriminates against the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.  But some politicians seem to think protestors — especially those supporting their favorite causes — have been conferred immunity.  This will lead to the forever lockdown, a very long cycle of lockdown – reopen – lockdown – reopen.  Here’s why.

Protest Sign

Wikipedia lists 18 pages (plus one more entry on the 19th page) of protests in California. By my rough count there were 196 protests on various dates throughout the state.  I’m gradually compiling their list into a usable format.  But two thing are clear. Protest activity picks up on weekends. And there were many protests throughout the month of June.

I scanned the Wikipedia table looking for protests where the estimated crowd size was 1,000 or more. There were 17 cities.  The total number of protestors was 50,500.  That is a whole lot of COVID spreading potential.

The total number of protestors was 50,500.  That is a whole lot of COVID spreading potential.

And sure enough COVID cases began increasing dramatically in mid-June.  From the New York Times (annotations added by me):

Cases graph

(Click for larger image)

That seems to show that the acceleration of cases began a couple of weeks after the protests began. But there’s an issue.  Testing has also increased.  We need to look at cases per test after the protests began.  Thankfully, the California Department of Public Health has data on both testing and cases.  Sadly, testing data is by date while cases are by county and data.  Thankfully, this was relatively easy to solve with the help of our old pal, Mr. Excel (click to download the workbook). Here’s the result:

Cases per Test

(Click for larger image)

Sure enough, the number of positive cases per test started to trend up two weeks after 16,000 people protested in San Francisco.

So this is the cycle we’re in. Lock down the state and the number of cases will decelerate because many people follow the mandate.  But the protests continue, supplying a rather high baseline of infections.  When the lockdown eases, infections rise above the baseline.  Governor Newsom panics and locks down the state again.  And the protests continue. 

Calling this the forever lockdown is an exaggeration for two reasons.

  1. Eventually the virus will run out of people to infect (one way or the other).
  2. The economy collapses so badly that even the folks in Sacramento have to take notice.

Hopefully, our governor will eventually figure out that protests do not confer immunity. 

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