If there’s enough of a risk that attendees will contract a deadly plague at your event that you need a liability waiver to address it, you probably shouldn’t be holding that event.

But I don’t blame Trumpers for refusing to play by the new rule that social distancing should be strictly enforced except in cases where mass gatherings are needed to advance the left’s agenda.

There’s a piece at the Atlantic today by two woke epidemiologists making the case that not all mass gatherings are created equal. You can read it here; I’m not going to quote it because it’s an insult to my intelligence and yours. I say that as someone who condoned the lockdowns, still believes they were justified as an emergency brake on an exploding epidemic, and regards anyone who attends a mass gathering right now as having garbage for brains. If you do read it, though, bear three points in mind.

1. One of the authors recently accused Trump of de facto genocide for incompetently responding to a crisis that’s hit minorities especially hard. That’s how urgent it was to him to contain COVID-19. Until it wasn’t.

2. There’s another piece today at the same publication detailing the mental-health crisis that Millennials will suffer and are already suffering due to the economic collapse. They had their career prospects wrecked by the Great Recession; now they’re facing a second massive economic storm at a time when they should be building job security. Scientists who support the anti-racism protests while denouncing all other breaks with social distancing insist that it’s nothing so grubby as politics that’s being given priority over containing COVID. Racism is itself a public-health issue, they say, and it’s always fair — even necessary — for scientists to prioritize among different aspects of health. Think of it as a form of triage.

But it’s never explained why demonstrating against racism should be prioritized right now over containing a once-in-a-century pandemic that could kill millions globally in the near-term. (Epidemiologists, usually overflowing with data, are conspicuously short on numerical support for their pro-protest position.) And it’s never squarely addressed why the enormous and perfectly foreseeable public-health consequences from a lockdown-driven recession weren’t similarly prioritized over containing COVID at the start of the epidemic. The piece about Millennials and suicide makes that starkly clear: It wasn’t the “economy versus public health” in March, it was “public health versus public health.” If Trump was a genocidaire for worrying more about the public-health consequences of lockdown than a COVID epidemic, why aren’t the woke epidemiologists at the Atlantic mass murderers for worrying more about the public-health consequences of racism than a COVID epidemic?

3. Is there any reason to believe that the demonstrations will meaningfully reduce race-related public-health disparities? Even in a best-case scenario where they do reduce them, is there any reason to believe that the offsetting spread of COVID won’t do more harm to black communities than good? David Bernstein made this point in a post the other day. We have epidemiologists engaged in almost pure speculation about the health benefits of a certain form of behavior (mass protests) and weighing that against lots of hard data about the health risks of the same behavior — and somehow coming out in support of that behavior. Bernstein:

Will the protests raise public consciousness about the pernicious effects of racism? Surely, and that will likely have positive effects. But beyond that, things are very uncertain. Will violence/rioting continue and cause a “reactionary” backlash? Will reforms advocated by protesters, such as those encompassed by the slogan “Defund the Police,” actually be enacted? If enacted, will they have positive effects on public health, or will they lead to a surge in violent criminal activity, itself a huge threat to public health and wellbeing?–it wasn’t that long ago that violent crime rates were triple what they are now, with tens of thousands more people killed and injured each year. What will be the effect of social disorder on the economic health of big cities in general, and the poorer neighborhoods within them in particular, and what effect will that have on public health and wellbeing?

The public health folks who are comparing the negative Covid-related health effects of the rallies to the health effects of racism and police violence are committing a fundamental methodological error. On the one side, there is a real public health problem of coronavirus, and we know, based on what the experts have been telling us since March, that large public gatherings will likely kill a large but indeterminate number of people.

On the other side, racism harms people’s well-being, and state violence directly harms their health. However, and this is key, no one has any idea what overall effect the protests (and any attendant violence) will have on racism and state violence, even whether it will be positive or negative.

I repeat the point I made in a post a few days ago: Is there literally any aspect of public-health apart from demonstrating against racism which epidemiologists would insist justifies mass gatherings right now? Cancer research? HIV prevention? What cause is so important that scientists would say of it, “Sure, throw 250,000 people together to agitate on its behalf while we’re fighting a novel virus”? Around 650,000 Americans die each year of heart disease, which is (probably) more than we’ll lose to COVID-19. Why aren’t woke researchers encouraging a million-man march on Washington to fight heart disease right now?

According to an expert at Harvard, we’re possibly looking at 200,000 Americans dead *before* the second wave begins this fall and despite the shattering economic pain we endured to hold down the death toll. It’d be nice if the president did his part to minimize the spread by canceling his rallies, but it’d be nice if the protesters did their part by not congregating and that’s not happening either.