U.S. Cellphone data suggests lockdown protests may have spread virus widely

Devices associated with protesters travelled up to hundreds of miles after rallies where few precautions were taken

The data, provided to the Guardian by the progressive campaign group the Committee to Protect Medicare, raises the prospect that the protests will play a role in spreading the coronavirus epidemic to areas which have, so far, experienced relatively few infections.

The anonymized location data was captured from opt-in cellphone apps, and data scientists at the firm VoteMap used it to determine the movements of devices present at protests in late April and early May in five states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado and Florida.

Dr Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, said that although “it’s hard to draw a straight line between devices, individuals at these protests, and cases”, the data suggests that the protests may be epidemiologically significant events.

“The behavior 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 added.