This Thing You're Doing Is a "Massive Risk Factor," Harvard Doctor Says

No matter what state you live in, doing this is still a really bad idea.

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While the pandemic is far from over in the United States, some states have succeeded at getting the coronavirus under some level of control—largely in the Northeast. This has allowed them to slowly—and most importantly, cautiously—reopen in a manner that hasn't yet resulted in the type of resurgence of COVID-19 experienced in states that were more aggressive in their actions to get things "back to normal." However, according to Ashish Jha, MD, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), no state is free from the risk of additional coronavirus outbreaks. In fact, there's one major COVID risk factor he sees people engaging in that make those outbreaks even more likely to occur: hosting or attending indoor gatherings.

"The more we learn about [COVID-19], we are really learning that indoor gatherings are the massive risk factor," Jha said in response to a question from the Los Angeles Times during a call with press on Aug. 3. "We've let too much go in terms of indoor gatherings."

group of young people toasting beer and eating pizza
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Addressing a similar question from The Wall Street Journal, Jha used his home state of Massachusetts as an example of the problem: "People have let their guard down, thinking it is totally fine to have 20 people over on a Saturday afternoon—and it probably isn't," he said. The issue is of such concern that he named indoor gatherings as a primary reason that states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and others could be headed for trouble similar to the spiking cases seen in the South and West regions of the country after reopening.

"It's very clear to me that these states are heading in the wrong direction," he said on Monday's call.

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Jha explained that the way in which the virus spreads is also key factor in raising the risk of a potential resurgence not only in the Northeast, but anywhere in the country where the coronavirus is active. What starts as only a handful of new cases—which doesn't register to people as being significant—rapidly reaches exponential growth, he says. Essentially, people tend to ignore that initial, seemingly insignificant, rise in new cases and before they know it, they've missed the window (about two to three weeks) to stop the spread from getting out of control. In other words, we should all "dial back" when it comes to house parties and other indoor gatherings. And for some other things you should avoid, check out The 3 Key Places That Need to Close in COVID Hotspots, Experts Say.

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