New infections and small outbreaks of the coronavirus have already been linked to large, in-person gatherings like the recent protests in Michigan and Wisconsin, among other states, but location data reveals that the virus has likely been carried back to communities far outside the cities where protests occurred.
Researchers who examined cellphone location data found that when anti-lockdown protesters returned home, many of them traveled up to hundreds of miles away if not to other states entirely.
Using the location data to create visualizations, the researchers saw that attendees at one protest in Colorado, for example, can be traced to at least five other states.
One visualization shows that in Lansing, Michigan, after a 30 April protest in which armed protesters stormed the capitol building and state police were forced to physically block access to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, devices which had been present at the protest site can be seen returning to all parts of the state, from Detroit to remote towns in the state’s north.
One device visible in the data traveled to and from Afton, which is over 180 miles from the capital. Others reached, and some crossed, the Indiana border.
In the 48 hours following a 19 April “Operation Gridlock” protest in Denver, devices reached the borders of neighboring states including Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah.
In addition to telling us that protesters might be carrying the virus back home with them, this also tells us that some if not most of the protesters we've seen photos and video of were actually protest tourists who traveled from out of state to protest government decisions that don't even apply to them in their own homes. Some protesters drove from Indiana to Michigan so they could wave their guns around in protest of someone else's governor.
You know, if you have that luxury; if you have the luxury of traveling to another state with thousands of dollars of guns and patriot cosplay gear just to protest orders that don't even apply to you, I'm going to suggest you're just a bored, lonely asshole. You're not marching for freedom, or whatever. You're not oppressed. You're just a prick.
With an incubation period of weeks, if protests and reopenings lead to more outbreaks, we should see increasing evidence of that toward the end of this month.