We’ve learned a lot about the coronavirus in the past 10 months. For instance: The problem is not playing football. The problem is house parties.
When the pandemic started, we as a society moved quickly to shut down everything. Schools, churches, sports, businesses we shuttered it all.
That worked. It stopped the virus from spreading very fast, and gave our medical system a chance to stay ahead of it.
We got tired of that, so we opened up quite a bit over the summer. Some people were stupid about that, jamming into bars at the Lake of the Ozarks on Memorial Day weekend, and packing like sardines at the motorcycle rally in Sturgis. That jump-started viral spread, just as you would predict it would.
As fall approached, there was a great deal of talk about sports. Should we have a football season at all? Is it a good idea to have sweaty 300-pound guys slamming into each other repeatedly? Should fans be allowed at games? Basketball seemed preposterous, completely out of the question.
But here’s where it gets interesting. As the director of Kansas State University’s Lafene Health Center has pointed out, college athletes became almost a lab experiment on their own. They’ve gone through rigorous, routine testing, and they’ve had to follow strict protocols at practices and games. They’re probably tested and monitored more than any other population on Earth.
Turns out that all worked pretty well. From all the monitoring, we learned as reported in a story in The Mercury this week that only 10 percent of the virus cases in those athletes came as a result of their sport. While that’s not zero, it pales in comparison to the real culprits:
Forty percent of all the cases came from social gatherings. In other words, by far the biggest problem was...you guessed it...parties.
Next: 30 percent came from roommates. Somebody that you’re in close quarters with, for hours at a time, is the second-most common problem. You’d actually expect that to be first, if you think about it, but it wasn’t. Parties still topped that list.
Why would that be?
Well, parties involve a lot of people in a confined space. And typically, people at parties operate at something less than their full faculties. Judgment tends to drop, and inhibitions diminish. So there go the masks, there goes the social distancing. Lean in for the selfies!
People in classrooms tend to be far more sober. People even at football practice are operating with their wits about them.
So: School? Not a big problem. Sports? Not too big a problem. Group living arrangements: Problem. Parties: Really big problem.