Story at a glance
- New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across the United States.
- Public health experts and officials are warning against large gatherings ahead of the holidays.
- Community spread is accelerating, according to officials, making even small gatherings more dangerous.
It started off small.
You saw a loved one outside from 6 feet away with a mask on for just 15 minutes. Then, as the spring warmed into summer, you had a socially distanced picnic with a friend — still 6 feet apart, but you took your mask off to eat and drink and perhaps a little longer than that, if you’re being completely honest. Then restaurants started opening up their patios and that felt safe, because the officials said it was okay, and one time you sat indoors because the patio was full and it was almost completely empty inside. Oh, and you went to a gathering at a neighbor’s backyard with maybe a few more than 10 people but that was just once.
And suddenly, coronavirus cases are surging and the country set a daily record for new COVID-19 cases — three days in a row.
“Of course you want to have a birthday party for your kid. Of course it’s your friends who you have over, so you want to give them a hug,” said Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) when announcing new limits on social gatherings. “It’s human. It’s understandable. It’s got to stop.”
BREAKING NEWS ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
From the relaxing of social distancing guidelines back in May to mass demonstrations against another deadly threat to state-by-state decisions on whether or not to reopen schools this fall, there are plenty of phenomena to explain the various waves of the pandemic thus far. (Two? Three? Is it all the same?) But the science is clear: The more people you expose yourself to, the more dangerous it is for you and anyone else. Precautions such as social distancing, face masks and contact tracing have been proven to work in recent months. And while news of a potential vaccine is promising, it’s still not available yet.
“If you do the things that are simple public health measures, that soaring will level and start to come down,” Fauci told CBS This Morning. “You add that to the help of a vaccine, we can turn this around. It is not futile.”
The one thing Americans have now that they didn’t at the beginning of the pandemic is a little more information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued recommendations to make COVID-safe holiday plans. There are models that can help you predict the risk of contracting COVID-19 if you attend an event of a certain size in a certain place.
The White House coronavirus task force is warning states about accelerating and “silent community spread,” according to documents reported by CNN, adding that asymptomatic cases can “only be identified and interrupted through proactive and increased testing and surveillance.” Some parts of the country have begun to reenter lockdown, placing restrictions on the size of gatherings as winter sets in and the holidays near.
“Earlier in the outbreak, much of the growth in new daily cases was being driven by focal outbreaks — long-term care facilities, things of that nature,” Nirav Shah, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Maine, told the Washington Post. “Now, the kitchen table is a place of risk.”
If that sounds dramatic, surveys show that Americans have a significant misunderstanding of the risk of death from COVID-19 when it comes to different age groups and even their own agency in the pandemic.
“We’ve all gotten used to our bubbles, but I don’t think we’ve really asked whether someone who’s in our bubble is also in another person’s bubble,” Shah told the Washington Post. “People’s bubbles are getting big enough to burst.”
All this doesn’t mean that you’re selfish if you’ve exposed yourself in some ways, said Vanessa K. Bohns, an associate professor of organizational behavior and psychology at Cornell University.
“The people who are failing to heed precautions aren’t doing so because they don’t care,” Bohns told Changing America back in March. “I believe they are doing so because they are underestimating the impact of their individual decisions and behaviors. We need to find a way to make the impact of their actions more tangible.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW