‘Superspreader’ wedding, birthday party in Long Island lead to 56 infections

Within two weeks, 30 guests had tested positive for covid-19. Suffolk County health officials said an additional 159 people who had potentially been exposed to the virus by wedding attendees had been forced to self-quarantine to prevent further spread of the virus.

“One-third of all of those in attendance,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a news conference Wednesday. “Think about that for a second.”

County officials recommended a fine of $17,000 against the club for violating a county sanitary code as well as a statewide mandate restricting gatherings to no more than 50 people, and the State Liquor Authority told the New York Times it was investigating the incident. The country club did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Long Island birthday party that same day limited its guest list to 50 names, but has still led to another 26 coronavirus cases in the last two weeks, Bellone said.

Those ill-fated gatherings were not the only large events to spread the coronavirus across Long Island in recent weeks. Dozens of new cases have been tied to a string of parties in Suffolk County, and hundreds of residents have been forced to quarantine after possible exposure to the virus.

“This type of blatant disregard for the well-being of others is not only extremely disappointing; it will not be tolerated,” Bellone said Wednesday. “If you violate the rules, you’ll be caught and held responsible.”

SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE BELLONE TO ANNOUNCE NEW ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS IN RESPONSE TO RECENT COVID-19 SPREADER EVENTS

Posted by Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone on Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The spread of the virus along Long Island is particularly concerning in the state and county that were once epicenters of the pandemic. More than 500,000 people in New York have tested positive for the virus, and at least 33,219 have died since the start of the pandemic. Even as coronavirus rates have remained low in New York in recent weeks, some social gatherings have led to hot spots.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on Wednesday urged residents to avoid even family gatherings as the holidays approach.

“My personal advice is the best way to say, ‘I love you,’ this Thanksgiving, the best way to say, ‘I’m thankful for you,’ is to say, ‘I love you so much, I’m so thankful for you, that I don’t want to endanger you, and I don’t want to endanger our family and I don’t want to endanger our friends. So we’ll celebrate virtually.’” Cuomo said. “But that is my personal opinion.”

Despite admonitions to keep social gathering small and socially distanced, or to avoid them altogether, many people have decided to come together in large groups, especially in Long Island.

A Sweet 16 party hosted at a banquet hall on Sept. 25 became the county’s first “superspreader” event, Bellone said, after 37 guests tested positive for the virus after attending the 81-person soiree. At least 270 people had to quarantine after possibly being exposed to coronavirus

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COVID cases likely to surge during holiday season due to ‘superspreader events’

Thanksgiving kicks off the annual season of celebration, but it will be no holiday for the coronavirus.

With the United States climbing toward what epidemiologists are calling a third peak of pandemic infections, public health experts fear gatherings of families and friends could make an already bad situation worse.

“Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we’re having what I see as potentially six weeks of superspreader events, right, in which we’re going to be getting together with family and friends,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious diseases expert at the Emory University School of Medicine, warned. “And we can see a lot of disease happening.”

Del Rio sounded the alarm during an NBC News Facebook Live interview with Dr. John Torres, NBC News contributor, as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surged past 8 million and deaths due to the coronavirus climbed to a world-leading 218,097.

“So, I’m really worried that we are facing some of the toughest times in this pandemic in our country,” del Rio said.

He said President Donald Trump was sending the wrong message to Americans with his cavalier attitude toward COVID-19, his repeated boasts about being “immune” since he was released from the hospital and his refusal to consistently wear a mask at public events and campaign rallies.

“The president got infected and did remarkably well for his age,” del Rio said of Trump, who is 74. “He was treated with everything but the kitchen sink, but he’s recovered. He’s done well. So the president at this point in time is saying, ‘Hey, this is no big deal. If you get infected, nothing happens.’”

In other coronavirus news:

  • Trump made the inaccurate claim that “85 percent of the people wearing masks” still catch the coronavirus, during an interview Thursday on the Fox Business Network. He cited as evidence a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. But a day earlier, the CDC tweeted that “the interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect.”

  • While the White House has been pushing for approval of a COVID-19 vaccine before Election Day, the drugmaker Pfizer said it will not apply for emergency use authorization for its vaccine candidate until at least the third week of November. “We are operating at the speed of science,” Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said.

  • The federal budget deficit under Trump hit an all-time high of $3.1 trillion in the 2020 budget year as the pandemic shrank tax revenues and government spending soared. That’s more than double the previous record set in 2009 when the Obama administration shored-up the banking system to limit damage from the recession that began on President George W. Bush’s watch.

  • Eight million Americans have slipped into poverty as a result of the pandemic, according to a new study.

  • Hawaii is saying aloha to tourists again, but only if they test negative before they get on the plane.

  • The Navajo Nation in Arizona is using the sun and the wind to

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With the holidays coming, Covid cases likely to surge during ‘six weeks of superspreader events’

Thanksgiving kicks off the annual season of celebration, but it will be no holiday for the coronavirus.

With the United States climbing toward what epidemiologists are calling a third peak of pandemic infections, public health experts fear gatherings of families and friends could make an already bad situation worse.

“Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we’re having what I see as potentially six weeks of superspreader events, right, in which we’re going to be getting together with family and friends,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious diseases expert at the Emory University School of Medicine, warned. “And we can see a lot of disease happening.”

Del Rio sounded the alarm during an NBC News Facebook Live interview with Dr. John Torres, NBC News contributor, as the number of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. surged past 8 million and deaths due to the coronavirus climbed to a world-leading 218,097.

“So, I’m really worried that we are facing some of the toughest times in this pandemic in our country,” del Rio said.

He said President Donald Trump was sending the wrong message to Americans with his cavalier attitude toward Covid-19, his repeated boasts about being “immune” since he was released from the hospital and his refusal to consistently wear a mask at public events and campaign rallies.

“The president got infected and did remarkably well for his age,” del Rio said of Trump, who is 74. “He was treated with everything but the kitchen sink, but he’s recovered. He’s done well. So the president at this point in time is saying, ‘Hey, this is no big deal. If you get infected, nothing happens.’”

In other coronavirus news:

  • Trump made the inaccurate claim that “85 percent of the people wearing masks” still catch the coronavirus, during an interview Thursday on the Fox Business Network. He cited as evidence a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. But a day earlier, the CDC tweeted that “the interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect.”

  • While the White House has been pushing for approval of a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day, the drugmaker Pfizer said it will not apply for emergency use authorization for its vaccine candidate until at least the third week of November. “We are operating at the speed of science,” Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said.

  • The federal budget deficit under Trump hit an all-time high of $3.1 trillion in the 2020 budget year as the pandemic shrank tax revenues and government spending soared. That’s more than double the previous record set in 2009 when the Obama administration shored-up the banking system to limit damage from the recession that began on President George W. Bush’s watch.

  • Eight million Americans have slipped into poverty as a result of the pandemic, according to a new study.

  • Hawaii is saying aloha to tourists again, but only if they test negative before they get on the plane.

  • The Navajo Nation in Arizona is using the sun and the wind to

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CDC warns of “superspreader” events after hockey game causes outbreak among players

With Americans about to spend more time indoors as the weather turns colder, health officials warned Friday that a recreational hockey game showed how indoor sports can be “superspreader” events for the coronavirus. One player in a game between two groups of men at an ice rink last June likely led to 14 other people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, three Florida officials wrote in an article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the 15 people who fell ill after the game in the Tampa Bay area, 13 tested positive for the coronavirus, and two weren’t tested. Cloth face masks weren’t used in either team’s locker room or during the game.

“The ice rink provides a venue that is likely well suited to COVID-19 transmission as an indoor environment where deep breathing occurs, and persons are in close proximity to one another,” the officials with the Florida Department of Health wrote in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The officials noted that the eight players who didn’t feel sick may have still contracted the disease and were asymptomatic. Not all of the players were tested.

The hockey player who the officials believe infected the other 14 people started experiencing a fever, cough, sore throat and a headache the day after the game. An investigation by the state health department found that eight of his teammates, five players on the opposing team and an ice rink employee felt symptoms within a week after the game.

“The indoor space and close contact between players during a hockey game increase infection risk for players and create potential for a superspreader event,” the officials wrote.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, used the term “superspreader event” to describe the events surrounding President Trump’s announcement of federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court. Even though the announcement ceremony was outside in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Trump and a number of his aides and supporters who were seen close together and not wearing masks tested positive days later.

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A spin class became a superspreader event. Why are fitness instructors excluded from workers’ compensation if they fall ill on the job?

Back injuries, knee pain, shoulder problems — and now, COVID-19.

They are daily risks faced by fitness instructors and personal trainers across the province. But unlike millions of employees in other sectors, gym staff are not entitled to workers’ compensation when they get sick or hurt on the job.

It’s a long-standing exclusion to the workers’ compensation system that critics say needs urgent change, especially in light of a Hamilton spin studio outbreak that may have exposed upwards of 2,500 people to COVID. Two staff members at the studio contracted the virus.

“Our bodies are on the line,” said Toronto-based group fitness instructor Vidya Sri. “The laws are completely out of date.”

Under current provincial legislation, gyms and fitness studios are exempt from mandatory workers’ compensation coverage. That means they do not need to pay insurance premiums to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board — and their employees cannot access benefits following a workplace accident or illness.

Gyms can voluntarily opt into the workers’ compensation system. There are 1,653 fitness establishments in Ontario, according to Statistics Canada; of those, 24 have elected to provide compensation coverage to workers, data from the WSIB shows.

Coverage means workers are eligible for loss-of-earning or health-care benefits following a work-related illness or injury.

A 2019 report on working conditions in the Ontario fitness sector by Larry Savage, a professor of labour studies at Brock University, found nearly a third all instructors and trainers had sustained an injury on the job. Half reported not having paid sick days.

“The lack of WSIB coverage and paid sick days make gym and fitness club workers less willing to disclose illness or injuries out of fear of reprisal or loss of income,” Savage said.

“The pandemic only makes this bad situation worse by increasing the likelihood that clients and other workers will contract COVID-19 if gym and fitness club workers decide to come in to work sick in order to avoid loss of pay.”

As part of his research, Savage told the Star he made inquiries with the Ministry of Labour about the history of the gym exclusion but “no one could or was willing to explain” why it existed.

Around 76 per cent of Ontario workplaces are required to pay into workers’ compensation. Legislative change is needed to amend the list of excluded employers. When asked if the government is considering reform, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour said workers’ health and safety was its “top priority.”

“With only a handful of exceptions, those workplaces that aren’t subject to mandatory coverage can choose to purchase coverage from the WSIB,” the statement said.

Planet Fitness outlets account for 10 of the gyms that voluntarily signed up for coverage, according to the WSIB’s data. Other than F45 Guelph, part of a relatively new but popular fitness chain, none of the gyms that opted into the workers’ compensation system are major players. (Other establishments included the “Orillia Agricultural Society” and “Retro Rollers.”)

In response to questions from the Star,

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