Mass bike rides take to the streets as most covid restrictions lifted and cases plunge

On the 21st and again on the 22nd of May, massive group bike rides took to the streets of DC, similar to the DC Bike Parties of the pre-covid era. In the past year, police made no attempt to enforce covid gathering limits against 1st Amendment activities probably for fear of a court using the 1st Amendment to toss ALL the gathering limits. Cultural events (including bike rides) that were not about speech were mostly suspended-until now.

On the weekend of May 21-23, DC lifted almost all their covid-related capacity limits. Thus, a gathering such as a the big bike rides didn't need to rely on the First Amendment as a shield to keep MPD off of them. The streets have been coming back to life as much of the general public is coming back out. We've come a long way to get here, the past year has been like no other since at least 1918.

Back in October 2029, the DC Bike Party held a "get out the vote" ride in conjunction with a number of groups, but at that time covid cases were spiking and no crowd indoors or out was considered safe to enter without a mask. Too many riders ignored the request to mask up, so that ride was not tried again. Now the limits are gone, and the CDC is telling the public essentially that with current caseloads and half the population vaccinated, masks outdoors are needed only in crowds and only unvaccinated folks need to wear them indoors. For some folks the rule is to mask up whenever someone wearing a mask themselves approaches or must be approached. Due to the experience of Summer vs late-Fall 2020 with covid, a lot of protest participants still wear masks. Angry, shouting crowds can still generate an lot of droplets, unknown to this author how much risk from that in a half-vaxxed crowd.

When nobody was vaccinated, the major 2020 protests in DC offer considerable field experience in the utility of masks in outdoor situations during an uncontrolled pandemic. As the Uprising cranked up in May-June 2020, the first protests had about half the participants wearing masks, quickly rising to near-100%. Nobody knew how much covid risk a protest would entail, and the use of tear gas and need for tight shield wall formations when these escalated to battles multiplies any risk. It was felt by everyone from protesters to some in UN agencies that the growth of deadly, racially-based policing was a deadlier pandemic than the virus itself. Globally, regimes everywhere attempted to exploit the pandemic to turn back human rights and snuff out protest movements. Facing multiple enemies, courageous warriors armored up behind face masks (KN-95 was the best armor), packed alcohol-based hand sanitizers as everyday carry weapons, then added more protective gear against police weapons and rode forth to battle

It soon become apparent at least in DC that seemingly every case of Covid among protest partipants originated at Central Cell Block after people were arrested. This led to a number of quarantines but no deaths known to this author. A small number of National Guard and MPD members came up positive in tests but not a great many. There were unconfirmed reports of a cluster of cases in Portland, where police routinely saturated the entire neighborhood around the so-called "justice center" with tear gas. Tear gas can force people out of contaminated masks and generate intense coughing. Gas masks replaced KN-95s in this environment.

Then came the very intense post-election battles, when the Proud Boys, 3%ers and other violent far-right extremists brought their wish for civil war to the streets of DC. Many of them were covid deniers and anti-maskers. They refused to wear masks in bars and hotels, and screaming packs of Proud Boys stood shouder to shoulder without masks. For all the guns that were seized, stabbing incidents, and beatings in the streets, their unmasked voices may have been their deadliest weapons. Over 50 cops ended up in quarantine after being close to screaming unmasked Proud Boys as cases spiked and vaccines were not yet released. Nobody really knows how many cases the Proud Boys spread among themselves, as these cases did not show up until all those out-of-town fascists had dispersed back to their hometowns. The possibility that Nov 14, Dec 12, and Jan 6 were Sturgus-style superspreader events cannot be proven, nor can it be dismissed. It is also likely a lot of the spread was indoors.

From all this, it appears that people inside 6 feet and facing oneanother while shouting may be a different risk than any other outdoor situation. Now however, vaccination is spreading faster than covid ever dreamed of, and at least temporary relief is at hand in those countries weathy enough to produce their own supplies of enough and effective enough vaccines. A vaccine-busting "escape varient" has yet to appear, but could at any time.

Big mass bike ride set out on the evening of May 22

Sound bike and lead elements on BLM Plaza

Nearing the US Capitol

The Friday night ride on BLM Plaza

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