Every year on the 4th of July we have a big party at my house. My brother and his family come up from New Jersey. I grill steaks, ribs, burgers, fries, chicken, and also cook fish, scallops, shrimp and sometimes lobster, as well as corn, zucchini, and mashed potatoes. “The tribe,” as my wife calls her Jamaican family, comes over, bringing friends with them, as well as curry goat and oxtails, with rice and peas. I fill up coolers with bottles of water, beer, hard seltzers and sodas from a local place that makes kid centric drinks like Zombie Juice, Toxic Slime, Monster Mucus, Dog Barf, and Kiddy Piddle. Dessert is ice cream and pie (apple and pumpkin) along with grapes and fresh berries, (blueberry, raspberry and strawberry). And then after dark, there are fireworks that I set on a step ladder and fire into the night sky, ending always with a spectacular finale.
Well, because of COVID we cancelled 4th of July, and instead at the last minute decided to have just a small get together, limiting the food to hot dogs and hamburgers and chicken, and inviting only my wife’s sisters and their kids. The plan was for everyone to bring a chair and we would all sit out back. Things were going pretty well, then I noticed it was just me in the back. It was awfully hot and humid and it seemed the rest had all gravitated to the living room where the large window AC was cranking on high. There were fifteen people in the room, sitting on the couch, one love seat and one arm chair, many in each other’s laps, talking loudly, close together, with no masks on. Why masks, when this is all family?
Here is just some of who were in the room (counting me when I walked in on the scene), a paramedic, an ER nurse, a nursing home health aide, a corrections worker, a supermarket worker, and an ice cream shop worker, as well as someone who recently left a job as a group home worker. Talk about touching all the hot spots. Now, while Connecticut is doing great (for the most part) as far as COVID goes, (and way better than most of the country), all it takes is one person to have been infected a couple of days before and not know it, to get every one in that room infected with COVID, thanks to proximity, loud talking and laughter, producing more respiratory droplets, no masks, and with a giant assist from the air conditioner, which as the window type, pulls air in, cools it and then recirculates it (along with its possible COVID droplet storm) shooting back into the room.
This is how super-spreader events work.
My wife, who makes me strip when I come home after every city shirt, throw my COVID clothes in the hot wash, and take an immediate shower, was very apologetic for letting her guard down. With family something you don’t think.
All it takes is one person to get infected, and be at their most infectious a few days after infection, to be in extended contact with a group of people in a confined space. Fortunately, they weren’t all in there for that long
While all the people in attendance were relatively healthy and fit (and two had recent Negative COVID tests), they all have contact with older family members who did not attend.
We are going to be more careful. We will still have family gatherings, but keep them outside and better spaced, and if anyone goes inside, instead of using the window AC, we are going to open windows and fans.