07/07/2020 15:08 EDT

No COVID-19 Cases In B.C. Linked To Black Lives Matter Protests, Says Dr. Bonnie Henry

And health officials in other places are seeing the same thing.

There have been no new COVID-19 cases linked to recent large Black Lives Matter protests in British Columbia, says the province’s top doctor.

In a news conference Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said  there was no spike in cases following the demonstrations, contrary to many predictions.. 

“Currently we do not have any cases that have been associated with the protests,” Henry said.

Early June saw a slew of protests and demonstrations around the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In Vancouver, around 6,000 people participated in an anti-racism Juneteenth march on June 19. But more than two weeks later, no cases have been reported linked to the event. 

A man wearing a face mask that says "I Can't Breathe" and "Black Lives Matter" raises his fist while marching with thousands of others to mark Juneteenth in Vancouver on June 19, 2020.

Henry said there’s a number of reasons for the lack of B.C. cases, including the fact that the protests took place outside and people were diligent about wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. 

And B.C’s not alone. Henry said her colleagues in the U.S. have also not seen a surge of cases linked to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The protests stand in sharp contrast with the large “super spreader” outdoor parties happening in the United States. Viral images of thousands of party-goers tightly packed on patios and beaches over the July 4 long weekend have drawn online outrage. 

While other countries have flattened the COVID-19 infection curve, the U.S. has seen a steady increase in cases in recent weeks in states such as Florida and Texas. Many new cases have been attributed to states reopening and people going out to parties and bars

Henry said she and her U.S. colleagues were surprised by the lack of cases linked to the protests. Comparing the environments of these parties and the protests can help officials learn more about how the virus transmits.  

“There’s something inherently different about what you’re doing with a group of people partying on a beach, versus what we’ve been seeing with some of these protests,” Henry said.

Henry said the prolonged time spent close to other people while talking, singing or shouting promotes the spread of the virus in these party settings. She highlighted the “three Cs” that allow for the virus to spread most easily: close contact for a continuous period of time in a contained space. 

“It’s when you’re spending time with people, when you’re sharing foods and drinks with people, when you’re partying, dancing, laughing, kissing, hugging, those are the situations that are much more likely to spread droplets between people,” she said.

So a tightly packed party with a bunch of people sharing drinks is still very much out of the question. 

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the "Murals of Gratitude" exhibition in Vancouver on July 3, 2020.

And while the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to maintain social distancing and not gather in groups, if people are going to gather, whether to protest or for some other reason, Henry reiterated that it’s important to do it as safely as possible.

“Situations where you’re coughing or singing or hugging or dancing, those are the situations where you’re much more likely to transmit this virus,” she said.