RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
As demonstrations continued across the country this weekend, some states saw a rise in COVID-19 cases. New data points to spikes in states including Florida, California, Arkansas and Arizona.
NPR's Allison Aubrey joins us now to talk about the numbers and also some strategies for engaging while avoiding crowds. Allison, thanks for being here.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: So what can you tell us about the rise in cases?
AUBREY: Well, if you look nationwide, the picture is mixed. Nationally, there's been a decline in new cases in recent weeks. That's because some places hardest hit are doing better, such as New York and New Jersey. But what officials are concerned about is the spike in cases over the last few days in states including Florida, North Carolina, Texas - the Houston area, for instance. And if you look at the timing, these cases are probably linked to what people were doing, you know, back Memorial Day weekend and when businesses started reopening.
MARTIN: Huh. So even though we have seen the photos - perhaps people have been participating themselves in these massive protests over the last week or so against racial injustice and over George Floyd, the increases in COVID that you're talking about are not linked to those?
AUBREY: No. Remember there's a significant lag time. So this could be coming. There have been isolated cases of protesters who have tested positive. For instance, an Oklahoma State football player who attended a protest in Tulsa said he tested positive. A county commissioner in Athens, Ga., tested positive. She helped lead a march. And officials in Atlanta and other cities have offered free testing for protesters - encouraging it given the concern because it's clear that conditions are ripe for outbreaks when people gather in close quarters like this.
MARTIN: So given the risks, some people may not want to protest in person. I understand you've been talking with civil rights advocates and others about alternatives. What are they saying?
AUBREY: One strategy to start with is to listen. You know, we spend a lot of time talking at each other, talking only to people like us in our own circles. But if you listen to the messages coming from many of the protests this weekend, the notion that kept coming up was that we need a lot more direct dialogue about race. I spoke to Polly Gipson. She's a licensed clinical psychologist at the University of Michigan.
POLLY GIPSON: That old adage of like, you know, at dinner, don't talk about race and politics. Well, we got to get out of that. You know, we - this is what you got to talk about. Yes, it's uncomfortable. But we can't avoid things that are uncomfortable because this is part of the problem of why, you know, we're not as far along as we should be.
AUBREY: And it's important for parents to talk to their children about racism as we've heard several times already this morning.
MARTIN: Yeah, absolutely. So more listening, more talking - and then what?
AUBREY: Well, more people need to take action. I mean, that's what all the civil rights advocates, social workers, psychologists I've spoken to have told me, including Inger Burnett-Zeigler. She's a psychologist at Northwestern University.
INGER BURNETT-ZEIGLER: A lot of people of color are tired. We're tired of being unseen and misunderstood. And particularly in a time like this where there's this shock, it can be overwhelming and frustrating and exhausting. And so I think it's really important for everyone, regardless of race, to think about - what is my role in this system? What have I done? Have I been a passive bystander? Have I been someone who has thought that racism doesn't exist anymore?
AUBREY: She says look around your own workplace, your own community. And ask, you know, what can you do? What can I do? If you're a manager, are you promoting a diverse workforce? If you're a teacher, does your curriculum promote diversity? She says we all have a role.
MARTIN: What about social media, Allison? I mean, a lot of people choose to make their voice heard by posting a hashtag in this moment. What do the experts that you've talked to - what do they say about the effectiveness of that?
AUBREY: Social media is one way to have your voice heard. But beyond posting messages, there could be more impactful strategies. Burnett-Zeigler says there are lots of ways of helping, you know, kind of one-on-one.
BURNETT-ZEIGLER: Tutoring is a great example. I think mentorship is a great example. I think the donating money to other organizations that are doing work around racial justice is also a great example. The way that we - you vote I think is another example of ways that you can use your personal influence in private ways for good.
AUBREY: And even if you're not old enough to vote, teens can get involved in, you know, letter-writing campaigns, volunteering.
MARTIN: So talking to teens and college students, given the continued threat from COVID, many are home. Right? Not...
MARTIN: ...As busy as a normal summer by any stretch of the imagination.
MARTIN: Any specific ideas for them?
AUBREY: One way is to turn to the arts, to use creative talents. I spoke to a young woman making jewelry, giving proceeds to a civil rights organization. One of our colleagues' daughters is singing in online concerts and donating the money she raises. So you know, turning to art can not only help you process emotions, especially difficult ones, it's also a way to speak up, to be heard, to be witnessed. Here's Polly Gipson again.
GIPSON: There are so many powerful ways that young people can use their talents and their gifts to shine the light on this issue because, you know, not only does this work require a commitment and values, it also requires some passion. And if they can express that passion through arts, craft, there are so many powerful, you know, dance choreographers, spoken word, musicians, poets. I think that's an excellent way.
AUBREY: And there's a fair amount of research to support the idea that the arts can be healing.
MARTIN: This has just been a traumatic week...
MARTIN: ...Or more at this point for the country, for so many people, especially - obviously - people of color who are bearing the emotional weight of this...
MARTIN: ...As always in these conversations. What coping mechanisms have you uncovered through these conversations?
AUBREY: You know, all of the people I spoke to - I spoke to a lot of African American women, and they all pointed to this. GiShawn Mance is a clinical psychologist at Howard University. She says the recent events have felt overwhelming. So she says, you know, sometimes it's important to hit the pause button and take some time to take care of yourself.
GISHAWN MANCE: Right now it's a lot. It's heavy. And there's been tears. And so recognizing that there are so many different ways to navigate what we are experiencing and there's no right or wrong - and making sure that you take care of yourselves is really important so that you can be healthy so that you could move forward to help others. And I'm particularly talking to people of color and black people who are experiencing this.
AUBREY: And she says when you're feeling ready, then you can jump in.
MARTIN: NPR's Allison Aubrey, thank you.
AUBREY: Thank you very much, Rachel.
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