Due to the possibility of contracting Covid-19, many people began the new year hunkered down at the end of 2020 and 2021. In any case, presently, New Year’s Eve occasions and festivities are back amazingly. Many people plan to attend social events, whether they are large gatherings with thousands of people or small gatherings at home with a few relatives and friends.
The United States is currently experiencing a triple threat, a combination of influenza, Covid-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). At a time when hospital capacity is at near-record levels across the nation, gatherings involving a large number of people can increase transmission of all three viral infections: The US Department of Health and Human Services says that over 70% of inpatient beds are being used.
When deciding whether or not to go to New Year’s Eve parties, what should you think about? How can you determine the risk of particular occurrences? Are there people who might want to take additional precautions, and if so, which risk-reduction measures are available? When should you conduct a post-event test to ensure that you are healthy if you discover later that a participant was ill? And if you experience symptoms following an event, what happens?
I spoke with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician, expert in public health, and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, to help you with these questions. Additionally, she is the author of “Lifelines: A Specialist’s Excursion in the Battle for General Wellbeing.”
When deciding whether or not to go to New Year’s Eve parties, what factors should people take into account?
Individuals ought to begin by thinking about three elements.
- To begin, what are your and your family’s chances of suffering serious consequences from respiratory viruses? If everyone is generally healthy and you have already resumed other activities that you did before the pandemic, it might be reasonable to do the same for New Year’s Eve parties. However, you may want to take additional precautions if the person is elderly or severely immunocompromised.
- Second, how do you rank these occurrences in relation to the significance of avoiding infection? There is a risk in almost every in-person interaction. That doesn’t mean you should never participate in in-person activities again; however, if you do go to an event with a higher risk, know that you could get a respiratory infection from it. Whether you go or not depends on how you weigh the significance of the occasion against your desire to avoid illness.
- Thirdly, is there a specific time constraint for which you absolutely do not want to fall ill before the new year? For instance, if an operation is scheduled for the week after New Year’s, the patient may wish to exercise extra caution to avoid contracting an infection and having to postpone the procedure. The desire to avoid infection prior to an important work event or school exam may outweigh the desire to participate in New Year’s Eve celebrations for someone else. These are all things to think about, and each person’s preferences will be different.
How can people determine the risk of various New Year’s Eve activities?
The risk is determined by the kind of event and, if any, the mitigation measures taken.
The risk is higher when there are more people. A little assembling of, say, 10 dear companions implies that you might actually contract respiratory infections from one of these 10. It is highly unlikely that any of these ten people will be infected upon entering the gathering, particularly if these friends have taken reasonable precautions themselves. Compare that to a 1,000-person gathering. In this instance, the likelihood of an infectious partygoer is much higher.
Risk will be lower at an outdoor event than at an indoor one. It will be safer to attend indoor events where everyone is spread out and there is adequate ventilation than to attend outdoor events where people are crowded together.
Testing is an additional mitigation strategy that has the potential to make a difference, in addition to ventilation and space. Risk is reduced if the event necessitates rapid Covid-19 tests on the same day. Additionally, the organizers’ emphasis that symptomatic individuals should not attend is helpful.
If someone does go to an event, what steps can they take to lower their risk?
Droplets carry the flu, RSV, and numerous other respiratory infections. It can lower your risk to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. If you don’t have access to hand sanitizer, bring some along and use it often, especially after shaking hands and touching common surfaces like serving utensils that are shared.
You could also stand near windows and try to avoid crowds, especially if they are congregating in poorly ventilated areas.
In addition to being spread through droplets, Covid-19 can travel through the air. Masks have been shown to lower the likelihood of transmitting Covid-19. Masks may be required at some venues, but even if they are not, you can wear a high-quality N95 or similar mask if you are extremely concerned about Covid-19.