Some experts have expressed concerns over the last week’s Capitol Hill violence, fearing that the mayhem could have proven to cause a super-spreading event.
On January 6, the mob that stormed the Capitol not only threatened the heart of American democracy but also gave an opportunity to the coronavirus to spread.
Scientists who watched the mayhem on television with the throngs of unmasked intruders who wandered across hallways and private offices said it might have transformed the riot into a super-spreader event.
They said the virus could have spread to new victims, infecting more people.
Epidemiologist Dr. Anne Rimoin of UCLA said, “It has all the elements of what we warn people about. People yelling and screaming, chanting, exerting themselves — all of those things provide an opportunity for the virus to spread, and this virus takes those opportunities.”
It has always been difficult to track the transmission of the virus.
Similarly, the Black Lives Matter protests raised concerns among researchers, but most of them were held outdoors and people seemed to be masked.
“I’m less worried about what was happening outdoors,” Dr. Rimoin said. “The risk increases exponentially indoors.”
Dr. Rimoin and other experts said hundreds of rioters shouting in crowded hallways and rooms for a longer period of time could infect dozens of people.
Capitol Police, rioters and members of Congress “were spending time indoors, without social distancing, for long periods of time,” according to Dr. Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease expert at Boston University.
Referring to a highly contagious new strain of the coronavirus, Dr. Barocas said the mayhem likely was a super-spreader event, “especially given the backdrop of the highly transmissible variants that are circulating.”
“I am worried not only that it could lead to super-spreading, but also super-spreading to people who are elected officials,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, according to The New York Times.
He noted that infected members of Congress could have spread the virus as they were finding shelters to save themselves from the rioters. The article was originally published in The New York Times.