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International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health






The objective of this study was to assess the relationship between public protests and county-level, novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hospitalization rates across California. Publicly available data were included in the analysis from 55 of 58 California state counties (29 March–14 October 2020). Mixed-effects negative binomial regression models were used to examine the relationship between daily county-level COVID-19 hospitalizations and two main exposure variables: any vs. no protests and 1 or >1 protest vs. no protests on a given county-day. COVID-19 hospitalizations were used as a proxy for viral transmission since such rates are less sensitive to temporal changes in testing access/availability. Models included covariates for daily county mobility, county-level characteristics, and time trends. Models also included a county-population offset and a two-week lag for the association between exposure and outcome. No significant associations were observed between protest exposures and COVID-19 hospitalization rates among the 55 counties. We did not find evidence to suggest that public protests were associated with COVID-19 hospitalization within California counties. These findings support the notion that protesting during a pandemic may be safe, ostensibly, so long as evidence-based precautionary measures are taken.


novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hospitalization, public protests, California, mixed-effects models, county-level


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