In August 2020, a study entitled "Exhaled respiratory particles during singing and talking" published in Aerosol Research Letters suggests that singing loud and consonant-rich songs, particularly the "Happy birthday Song," could increase the risk of COVId-19 transmission. But now, a recent study reveals that attending these birthday parties could increase the risk of contracting the virus by up to one-third.
The new study, "Assessing the Association Between Social Gatherings and COVID-19 Risk Using Birthdays," published in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that even celebrating a life event with trusted people could become a super-spreader event.
Should I Go to Birthday Parties During COVID-19 Pandemic?
Perhaps thinking twice before holding a birthday party during the pandemic could help in preventing the transmission of COVID-19. Researchers from Harvard, the RAND Corp., and Castlight Health used a creative method in gauging how much of a factor birthday parties are in COVID-19 transmission.
They analyzed insurance claims data and looked at COVID-19 rates that had recently held a birthday party, and established a connection between them. They also assigned random dates for birthdays and examined diagnoses before birthdays, and found no pattern. Instead, they found the biggest link between infection risk weeks after a child's birthday party.
The New York Times reported that a recent family birthday party increased COVId-19 transmission risk by nearly one-third in counties where the virus was widespread. Researchers believe that the risk could be explained by birthday parties, although none of the insurance claims data showed that a COVID-19 patient held a birthday party.
But there are several aspects of the insurance data that link the two factors. For instance, researchers found that the biggest infection risk is in the weeks after a birthday party. It is assumed that groups of people who attended these parties were huddled in close quarters and perhaps watch the celebrant blow out candles on a cake.
They also considered the data last year when fewer Americans were vaccinated, which may still explain transmissions of the virus this year, especially with the new and more contagious Delta variant.
Managing Small Gatherings
Birthday parties are still considered public gatherings, which could become vectors of the virus. Political debates on better public gathering management were all focused on people's behavior when they are outside, but public officials have also had a hard tie policing people's behavior indoors as they struggle to measure its effects.
Partners in Health's Massachusetts COVID response chief of strategy and policy K.J. Seung said that contact tracers had a hard time demonstrating that people were contracting the virus in small private gatherings than public exposures, Yahoo! News reported. This is because people are often reluctant to share the nights they went to a family members' place.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, explains that people seem to think that being at home is a safe place, and therefore having family or friends come over does not feel risky at all. He describes the paper as creative for finding the unusual way of COVId-19 transmission that is otherwise hard to trace and measure.
The CDC has announced that it is now safe for fully-vaccinated people to gather indoors without face coverings. But they warn that unvaccinated individuals; this study is a reminder that even the safest places or persons could pose a great threat of infection, including attending birthday parties or small gatherings.
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