Not All Social Gatherings Are Equally Risky for COVID Outbreak

Beachgoers at Huntington Beach, Calif., July 23, 2020. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
We need to begin differentiating between individual risk and risk for outbreaks as we think about public-health policy.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE E arly in the COVID pandemic, there was much discussion of super-spreaders — a single individual attending a routine and harmless event such as a birthday party, church service, or dinner party who caused many other people to become infected. As the pandemic has evolved and started significantly infecting young adults, we have become more focused on mass-gathering places such as bars and beaches.

Both super-spreaders and places for mass gatherings share something in common: multiple individuals coming into contact with multiple other individuals in a relatively short period of time. This type of mixing pattern is termed “concurrency” and has been

Jonathan Ellen is a pediatrician, epidemiologist, and public-health academic who previously served as the CEO of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

Most Popular

White House

Obama Wrote Trump a $73 Million Check

The New York Times’ big exposé on President Trump's tax returns flags some things that may be dodgy but mainly it just confirms what everybody (including Trump) has always said -- there are a lot of loopholes in the tax code that a savvy operator can exploit. Whose fault is that? The system long predates ... Read More
White House

Obama Wrote Trump a $73 Million Check

The New York Times’ big exposé on President Trump's tax returns flags some things that may be dodgy but mainly it just confirms what everybody (including Trump) has always said -- there are a lot of loopholes in the tax code that a savvy operator can exploit. Whose fault is that? The system long predates ... Read More

BLM Becomes the PLO

I am inclined to think that the Palestinians have some legitimate beefs, historically speaking. I just don’t care very much. You blow up children in pizza shops, and your priorities go right to the bottom of my global humanitarian to-do list. Palestinians want a state? I wouldn’t lend Mahmoud Abbas a cup ... Read More

BLM Becomes the PLO

I am inclined to think that the Palestinians have some legitimate beefs, historically speaking. I just don’t care very much. You blow up children in pizza shops, and your priorities go right to the bottom of my global humanitarian to-do list. Palestinians want a state? I wouldn’t lend Mahmoud Abbas a cup ... Read More
Law & the Courts

On Judge Barrett, Let’s Tell the Truth

Once when I was a kid, my dad held up three fingers and asked, “Does this two look like a three?” Little did I know that this attempted sleight of hand would become a regular feature of the process for appointing federal judges. Watch for it in the days ahead as the Senate considers President Donald Trump’s ... Read More
Law & the Courts

On Judge Barrett, Let’s Tell the Truth

Once when I was a kid, my dad held up three fingers and asked, “Does this two look like a three?” Little did I know that this attempted sleight of hand would become a regular feature of the process for appointing federal judges. Watch for it in the days ahead as the Senate considers President Donald Trump’s ... Read More