Experts warn fourth of July celebrations increase risk of ‘superspreader’ events

The Guardian (July 3, 2020).- The Fourth of July is traditionally for barbecues, fireworks, boisterous partying, and various hijinks to celebrate Independence Day. But this year, with coronavirus cases soaring to all-time highs, medical experts warn that the normal US holiday exuberance could instead create infection “superspreader” events.

Across the country, thousands of official public celebrations have been canceled in an effort to prevent mass gatherings. Two notable exceptions are the fireworks planned by the Trump administration in the center of Washington, and an event on Friday night at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota where the president will attend a fireworks display.

This event has managed simultaneously to upset Native American leaders who consider the location stolen tribal land; irritate those worried about wildfires in the parched landscape, where fireworks have been banned in recent drought years; and further divide views on health precautions, with the Republican governor of South Dakota saying social distancing will not be enforced and anyone who doesn’t like that idea can “stay home”.

Most municipal celebrations will not happen. But large groups are still expected in backyards, homes and streets, as Americans strain to celebrate their liberation from British rule.

And with the country reporting record highs of new coronavirus cases, officials say the impact of Fourth of July events could be catastrophic.

“It’s set up a perfect storm,” Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center, said during a briefing by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“The combination of travel, the combination of reopening – perhaps in some cases too early – and the combination of people not necessarily following some of these preventive guidelines.”

The US recorded 52,000 new cases on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University figures, a new all-time daily high for the US in the outbreak. It was the fifth daily high in the last eight days.

On Thursday morning, infections were rising in up to 40 states, and 14 states reported record daily highs.

About 40% of the US is now changing course on reopening in an attempt to quell the unprecedented surge, and states are pleading with people not to engage in group revelry.