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This one thing is why we can’t get the coronavirus spread under control

Published Jul 30th, 2020 10:52AM EDT
Coronavirus gatherings
Image: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

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  • Wearing a mask is the most important action you can take to stop the spread of coronavirus, but there’s only so much a mask can do if you attend a large gathering.
  • Most states have rules about how many people can gather in indoor and outdoor settings, but people continue to break those rules, even as COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths rise.
  • This weekend, a New Jersey mansion party managed to draw around 700 people.

After effectively flattening the curve by the end of May, bringing the daily average of new coronavirus cases down to 21,000 or so, the United States eased up on closures and restrictions in June and saw the case count skyrocket as a result. On July 16th, more than 75,000 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and though we seem to have momentarily plateaued, over 50,000 Americans are still getting infected every day. The goal now is to bend the curve back down, but in order to do so, US citizens have to stop gathering in large numbers.

Speaking in Frankfort, Kentucky this weekend, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that federal health officials were urging states with rising infection rates to close bars, curb indoor restaurant capacity, and limit gatherings to 10 people. “We can see what is happening in the South moving North,” said Birx. Sadly, there are many Americans who are flouting these rules, especially the limits on gatherings.

Even if you are refusing to follow any of the other CDC or WHO guidelines to protect yourself and others, limiting the number of people you come into contact with could change the trajectory of the pandemic in the US for the better. But as CNN reports, we keep seeing examples of people going out of their way to be in close proximity to as many people as possible, whether it be parties, concerts, or events where social distancing is impossible.

Perhaps the most egregious behavior of all occurred in Jackson Township, New Jersey last weekend when police raided and shut down an Airbnb house party at a mansion where an estimated 700 people had gathered without any regard for social distancing and with no masks to be found. Under the current executive order from Governor Phil Murphy, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 and outdoor gatherings to 500 people.

Here’s what Brian Lippai, spokesman for the Ocean County Health Department, had to say about the incident:

It’s still too early to determine what to expect but in the meantime 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. We’ve come a long way in the last several weeks and incidents like this can lead to serious setbacks in our efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

This is just one example of reckless behavior that could create a COVID-19 hotspot. In NYC, Astoria’s Steinway Street managed to trend on Twitter when hundreds of people gathered to drink and party until the early hours of the morning for a week straight until they were finally shut down. And in the Hamptons, photos from a “drive-in” concert headlined by The Chainsmokers showed that a number of attendees weren’t social distancing.

The infection rate may have stalled out in the US, but the hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise. If we continue to defy the rules, tens of thousands of Americans will continue to test positive every day. As of the morning of July 30th, there have been over 4.4 million cases and 151,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus in the US.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.