According to the Surgeon General, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. today. But radon doesn’t dominate the headlines in the way that the novel coronavirus does — and that’s likely because COVID-19 is now on track to be the third leading cause of death nationwide. With the confirmed death toll now exceeding 200,000, confirming Dr. Anthony Fauci’s predictions from back in March, there’s really no end in sight for COVID in the United States. Making matters worse, many Americans still aren’t taking the virus seriously — and superspreader events are becoming more commonplace (and more deadly).
Rather than taking place on the down-low, many of these events publicly fly in the face of CDC recommendations. From indoor concerts and political rallies to weddings and motorcycle rallies, they’ve all gotten their fair share of media coverage. Although installing a camera surveillance system may deter crime, the idea of being captured on camera doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent for the maskless. In fact, there isn’t much that seems to scare those who are willing to host or attend events that break with either local ordinances or common sense.
Understandably, many of these large gatherings have gone viral — in more ways than one.
Although “superspreader event” isn’t an official, scientific term, it’s one that’s generally used to describe places or instances where COVID-19 can easily be spread to many people at once. That could be anything from a college party or wedding reception to a religious service or concert. These events have been reported intermittently ever since the pandemic began, but there are a number of specific ones that have stood out amidst a sea of canceled plans.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which took place in August, brought more than 460,000 people to a small South Dakota City containing only 7,000 residents. According to a new study from the Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies at San Diego State University, the event led to more than 260,000 new cases of COVID-19 nationwide and cost the country around $12.2 billion. While city and state officials have called those numbers into question, citing the study’s lack of peer review, the event would account for a staggering 19% of cases nationwide over that time period if the study is accurate.
Motorcycle use is already dangerous, as is evidenced by the 5,172 fatal motorcycle accidents that took place in 2017. But now, another motorcycle event that took place in mid-September could spell trouble for Missouri’s already rising number of COVID cases. As thousands made their way to the Lake of the Ozarks region, experts could merely stand by and watch in fear as attendees went largely without masks and without any real signs of concern.
As one biker told MSNBC, “If I was worried about getting sick, I would have stayed home. But I wanted to have some fun.”
It may be fun in the moment, but Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services may be bracing for the fallout in a couple of weeks. This isn’t even the first time the Ozarks region has been caught on video for its mass gatherings during the pandemic. During Memorial Day weekend, pools and other types of water recreation were packed to the brim with guests. And although officials asked residents to self-quarantine after those videos were picked up by the media, the state ended up lifting COVID-related restrictions in June. At that time, Missouri had recorded only about 15,000 cases. By September, that number had already reached 112,884.
Of course, Missouri isn’t the only state that could be facing an uptick in cases following superspreader events. A relatively small wedding in Maine has now been linked to at least 170 cases of COVID-19; among the eight people who died as a result, none of them were actually in attendance. This goes to show just how dangerous and unpredictable the viral spread can be — and how we need to be focused on more than just ourselves and our own comfort level in regards to the virus.
Unbelievably, large events are continuing to be held in coronavirus hot spots. In South Dakota, where Sturgis was held, the governor has announced that an indoor country concert featuring Chris Young will take place next month. Even stranger is the event’s sponsor: Sanford Health of Sioux Falls, a non-profit organization that reportedly follows all CDC guidelines as its 46 medical centers, 210 health clinics, 233 senior living facilities, and 158 rehab centers. At the event, masks will not be required and it’s not yet clear whether social distancing guidelines will be followed or even suggested. The event is predicted to draw around 5,000 people.
It’s clear that there will continue to be those who believe COVID-19 is no worse than the flu. But as more Americans die and government officials refuse to take action, the question now is, how bad does this have to get before it gets better?
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