The United States' coronavirus numbers are out of control, with the month of December bringing in more COVID deaths than we've seen during any other month this year. It's important to be on high alert, which means knowing what risks you're taking right now and how they could get you sick. With that in mind, one expert is warning that New Year's Eve parties will be like a "dream for the virus." Keep reading to find out why these gatherings could be more dangerous than any other, and for more coronavirus news, The New COVID Strain Is in the U.S. and It's Bad News for 2 Reasons.
Peter Hotez, MD, a physician and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN that gathering outside of your immediate household may be especially dangerous during the New Year's holiday.
"It doesn't take much for this to spiral out of control," he said. "The loud voices to get your voice heard over the music. The lack of wearing masks. The fact that they're indoors. The fact that people are drinking alcohol, so they may be closer to one another than usual. These New Year's Eve parties are perfectly made for the SARS-CoV-2. This is a COVID-19 dream for the virus, unfortunately."
Much of this behavior has been typical of other ill-advised gatherings throughout the year, so what makes New Year's especially dangerous? Hotez says it's partly because there is just so much coronavirus transmission occurring in the country right now. According to The New York Times, there were more than 200,000 new cases on Dec. 29 alone. In comparison, the highest peak during the country's summer surge barely surpassed 70,000 new cases in one day.
"Practically speaking, what that means is if you go to a party with five or more people, almost certainly there's going to be somebody with COVID-19 at that party," Hotez said. "If you have a party in your neighborhood, or if you just invite some friends over, there's a pretty high risk."
Hotez said any type of gathering on New Year's Eve could lead to danger. But if everyone stays distanced this year, he says we can celebrate a "much happier New Year's" next year after more people get vaccinated. Keep reading for more reasons why this holiday poses such high risks, and if you're worried about getting sick, discover The Earliest Signs You Have COVID, According to Johns Hopkins.
A new COVID strain could be circulating at your party.
The new COVID strain that has been ravaging the United Kingdom has made its way to the U.S. A Colorado man with no history of travel was diagnosed with the new strain, and it's now been found in California. This virus mutation is reportedly even more fast-spreading and contagious than the original COVID strain, and if someone has COVID at your New Year's gathering, they could be spreading this new variant. And for more on the mutation, Dr. Fauci Says This Is How We Should Tackle the New COVID Strain.
New Year's parties are almost always indoors, where COVID spreads.
Even without the new strain, the coronavirus easily spreads indoors. While many summer gatherings had the advantage of being able to be held in outdoor spaces, it's unlikely anyone would host a New Year's Eve party outside in the colder weather. A November study published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science found that the virus could transfer from one person to another even 20 feet away in just five minutes, if they were indoors. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Many people may have been exposed to COVID during Christmas.
Chances are, someone you gather with on New Year's Eve gathered with others on Christmas. After all, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) clocked a record-breaking 1,191,123 people traveling through airports on Dec. 23—likely heading to a Christmas gathering.
Jeff Pothof, MD, a physician and University of Wisconsin health chief quality officer, told WKOW that experts are still waiting to see if there is a spike in COVID numbers from Christmas, but either way, if someone was exposed and infected during a Christmas gathering, they will be at peak transmission on New Year's. And for more ways to keep yourself safe, This Common Supplement Could Help You Avoid COVID, Study Says.
Guests are likely to be shouting and spraying particles during the New Year's countdown.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explicitly encourages anyone to "avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors" when gathering with others. As it turns out, raising your voice can heighten the spread of the virus. Jose Jimenez, PhD, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who researches disease transmission, told The Atlantic that people can "breathe out 10 times more virus when they are shouting or spreading loudly." And anyone who has ever been to a New Year's Eve party knows it is tradition to shout out the countdown right before the ball drops. And for more on the future of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Warning About Stopping COVID Entirely.