Anti-lockdown protests in US may have helped spread coronavirus, phone data suggests

‘We can see protesters are going from a highly concentrated event and then dispersing widely’

James Crump
Monday 18 May 2020 18:00 BST
Eric Trump claims coronavirus will 'magically disappear' after the election

US anti-lockdown protests may have helped spread the coronavirus, according to mobile phone location data.

The data, created by the campaign group Committee to Protect Medicare, and shown to the Guardian, revealed that some anti-lockdown protestors travelled hundreds of miles to join the demonstrations.

The data was collected by authorised phone apps, and scientists based at firm VoteMap, analysed the data of demonstrators at protests in Florida, Michigan, Colorado, Wisconsin and Illinois.

In the raw data, many of the devices were shown to cross state borders in the 48 hours that followed protests in the five states.

Other devices in the data were shown to have travelled to cities all over their states, with one shown to have moved more than 180 miles from the Michigan protests in Detroit on 30 April, where armed protesters stormed the the state’s capitol building, according to the outlet.

The data also reportedly showed that some protesters from a Wisconsin rally on 24 April, crossed the borders of Minnesota and Illinois during their journey’s home.

There has been widespread concern that the rallies could lead to more positive cases of Covid-19, and last week, it was reported by the Progressive that 72 people who attended an anti-lockdown rally in Wisconsin had later been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Dr Rob Davidson, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, said that it is difficult to analyse the consequences of the protester’s actions.

However, he added that a large number of demonstrators travelling to different areas of the state and across borders, is concerning, as it could potentially spread coronavirus.

“The behaviour we’re seeing at protests carries a high risk of infection. We can see protesters are going from a highly concentrated event and then dispersing widely,” he said.

Mr Davidson previously ran for congress as a Democrat, but clarified that the organisation, is made up of “doctors who are concerned that the healthcare for their patients has become unaffordable.”

Over the weekend, president Donald Trump retweeted a video from reporter Kevin Vesey, which showed anti-lockdown protesters in Long Island directing anger towards the journalist.

Mr Trump retweeted the video and added the comment: “People can’t get enough of this. Great people!”

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 1.4 million people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 89,636.

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