Cases of the novel coronavirus are increasing at a rapid rate across the U.S. and health officials worry this trend will only increase as the holiday season continues. Despite recommendations that large gatherings should not take place amid the coronavirus pandemic, some continue to host public events.
The risk of spread as a result of these gatherings is not only high but extremely likely. Weddings and holiday gatherings have proven to be superspreader events across the country, yet some local counties still refuse to cancel them. A Georgia Christmas parade may have been an attempt at spreading the holiday spirit, but an opportunity for children to take Christmas photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus may also have exposed nearly 50 children to COVID-19.
The annual parade took place in Ludowici, Georgia, and was hosted by the Long County Chamber of Commerce. As part of the festivities, children were allowed to sit in Santa’s lap for a photo. At least 50 children posed for photos Thursday, two days before Mr. and Mrs. Claus both tested positive for COVID-19. The confirmed tests were shared in a notice posted on the Long County Board of Commissioners website on Monday, claiming that both Santa and his spouse did not show any symptoms at the event. The announcement was also shared on the chamber’s Facebook page.
“While this is cause for concern, I feel that it is important to note that exposures happen every day as we go about our day to day lives, often without any knowledge. Children are in close contact with both other children and adults daily at school, rec functions, and church,” Robert D. Parker, chair of Long County Board of Commissioners, wrote. “Proper CDC exposure guidelines should be followed if your child was exposed, however I do not feel this incident is cause for panic.” Despite the risk the event entailed and the number of rising cases in Georgia, Parker made no apologies, noting that his children also took photos with Santa.
“It was well attended by our public officials and I believe I speak for the majority of them in saying that we still stand by the decision … to move forward with these holiday traditions, and to bring some sense of normalcy to these trying times.” According to Parker, such holiday traditions are essential because of the “countless underprivileged children who would never have experienced the joy of meeting Santa Claus.”
But while one might commend Parker for looking out for children who might not otherwise have their dream of meeting Santa Claus come true, the risk presented by this event cannot be ignored. Exposures may happen every day and might not be intended, but hosting an event of this sort without taking the proper precautions is irresponsible. Not only are cases increasing nationwide, but symptoms may not be noticeable in children for days, causing not only a chance of exposure between families but also fellow students, peers, and staff who may have come in contact with the children since. In the announcement, Parker claimed that the event and school present the “same risk of exposure”; however, voluntarily hosting a holiday event despite public health official recommendations is different than attending school, as education is mandatory.
Additionally, while it is unclear how many children wore masks and how many did not, pictures posted on social media clearly show that both Mr. and Mrs. Claus failed to wear masks. Children may not show symptoms as severely as adults but that does not mean they are not impacted by or cannot be infected by the virus.
State demographics show that Long County has a population of approximately 20,000 people. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, at least 16 new cases of the virus were reported in the country in the last week. As of this report, more than 534,000 people have been infected with and at least 9,856 have died as a result of COVID-19 in Georgia, according to data compiled by The New York Times. While a vaccine is currently being distributed to health officials and vulnerable populations nationwide, following safety precautions and other regulations in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 is essential.
From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.