What is a super spreader and is it safe to go to outdoor events?

By ELAINE ALLEN-EMRICH, Charlotte Sun, Jan 30, 2021  

With about 26 million cases of COVID-19 in America, along with new highly transmissible strains found in Florida, some still enjoy attending local jam-packed events and going to the bars and restaurants unmasked.

Dr. Jaclyn Nadler, of CoastalMED in Englewood, participated in a recent question-and-answer session with The Daily Sun about this virus and precautions.

Can COVID-19 spread in a crowd of people in a covered, open-air venue?

Absolutely, particularly if people aren’t social distancing or wearing appropriate type masks fully covering their mouths and noses. Although spread of COVID-19 is less with outdoor venues, it is primarily the close, unprotected contact that leads to infection spread.

Where is it safe right now to watch a concert or be in a crowd?

To be honest, now it not the time to be participating in any crowded activities. Our disease spread and hospitalizations are at all-time highs and this is leading to new variants, which are more transmissible and resistant strains emerging. The safest place to watch a concert would be in your living room or in a car at an outdoor theater.

How can you stay safe in any crowded environment?

If someone chooses to participate in a crowded event, they just need to understand the risks, and the most appropriate way to lower risks for contracting or transmitting COVID-19 would be to wear their appropriate mask CORRECTLY, maintain social distancing efforts and try to limit being around those in your immediate household (bubble). The main concern I have, is when people congregate, their defenses go down, they may remove their mask to talk, drink or eat, and this is how they risk becoming infected. Consistent and appropriate mask wearing is the key.

Bars don’t seem to enforce or encourage mask wearing. Is it safe to sit on a bar stool for hours and have drinks with strangers?

No, this is a very risky behavior and perpetuates virus spread.

Even if you’ve gotten the vaccine should you still be wearing a mask?

Yes, until we have appropriate herd immunity, mask wearing and social distancing are advised. Although the vaccine if very effective, time will tell if it will continue to work against more contagious variants. Early data suggests we may be needing boosters vaccines to help against these variants and it’s important to remember that adequate immunity provided takes up to about seven-10 days after the second dose for the vaccine’s full effect.

Not enough is explained about a super spreader when it comes to COVID-19. What is a super spreader?

You can have a super- spreader individual, which is typically someone with no or rather mild symptoms who continues to spread the virus through the community by not following masking and social distancing recommendations and comes into contact with a large amount of individuals.

You also have super-spreader events, again where large groups of people have close unprotected contact, are eating, drinking and conversing and unknowingly are infected and transmitting the virus to those around them.

Is there more evidence that even people who have little symptoms of COVID-19 are having lung issues or any longer-term impacts than what was known one year ago?

Yes, a recent study in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society has shown that some individuals with rather mild symptoms are experiencing fatigue and shortness of breath with minimal exertion that may linger weeks to months after illness. These are just some of the longer-term health issues still being evaluated.

Should people be cautious in large crowds?

I really want to impress upon the public, that even though COVID-19 statistics in the news can seem overwhelming and rather dismal, we do have a choice to lower the disease spread in our communities by adhering to health recommendation standards. The data is clear that wearing masks lowers transmission, but to get the full effectiveness we need to ensure we are wearing a quality-grade mask that is either a surgical/procedure type mask, a multi-layer tight woven cloth mask or consider “double-masking,” masks with valves should NOT be used — and most important is to not take the mask off for talking, drinking or eating, unless you are adequately distanced from other individuals. Consistency is key.

Image Credits: Concertgoers stand shoulder-to-shoulder at a recent event at the Twisted Fork in El Jobean, by ELAINE ALLEN-EMRICH