This One Thing Is Fueling the Spread of Coronavirus, Experts Say

Public health officials are pleading with local governments to stop people from doing this one thing.

More than four months into the pandemic, the coronavirus is showing no signs of stopping in the U.S. While most states across the country were shut down for the majority of April, those that reopened early are continuing to witness record-breaking surges of COVID-19 cases. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has continued to push for all citizens to wear face masks in public, practice regular hand washing, and to maintain social distancing. But as White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, travels across the U.S. to consult with local officials on their outbreaks, she's stressing one major piece of advice: Don't allow large groups to congregate because these gatherings are what's fueling the spread of coronavirus, CNN reports.

While traveling to Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Virginia over the few days, Birx has pleaded with local officials in those states, where coronavirus numbers are increasing, to limit social gatherings. In the White House's leaked document about "red zone" states, the coronavirus task force note that states that are seeing more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents per week need to "ask citizens to limit ALL social gatherings to fewer than 10 people." According to the latest data from The New York Times, 23 states are now seeing that alarming rate of new COVID cases.

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But while some state officials have been slow to heed the White House's advice—and others have outright rejected it—the public has also shown that they've grown tired of social distancing and staying home, choosing to attend large parties and events.

Even with strict orders in place to limit crowd sizes, states like New York and New Jersey have struggled to keep a handle on large gatherings. On July 24, a "drive-in concert" in New York featuring the popular DJ duo The Chainsmokers drew ire from officials for devolving into a large crowd of people who were not observing social distancing.

"I am at a loss as to how the Town of Southampton could have issued a permit for such an event, how they believed it was legal and not an obvious public health threat," Howard A. Zucker, New York's Health Commissioner, said in a statement.

The day after, a party of 700 people at an AirBnB in New Jersey took five hours for local police to break up, CNN reports.


But it's the many events happening on a much smaller scale that are also yielding very serious consequences. Reports of "superspreader events" have become common, with weddings and parties providing the perfect conditions to fuel the spread of coronavirus within a tight-knit group of people. These gatherings tend to be indoors without proper ventilation and they involve alcohol, which means maskless faces and decreased inhibitions.

Officials are continuing to plead with citizens to avoid the temptation to gather in groups. "It's crucial to remind residents—especially our young adults—that neglecting to adhere to the mandated safety measures can have serious repercussions on a community," Brian Lippai, spokesman for the Ocean County Health Department, told CNN. And for more on your COVID risk, check out Here's When You're No Longer at Risk of Getting COVID, Harvard Doctor Says.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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