In the wake of the Golden Globes last week, several celebrities said they have tested positive for COVID-19.
In response, the Critics Choice Awards, which was held on Sunday, announced that all attendees would be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test before entering the venue, according to Deadline.
Public health experts said the news of actors and actresses falling ill is not surprising due to the relaxed regulations and people gathering indoors.
“This is sort of a window into what our future holds,” said Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News contributor. “I mean, this is not unexpected. You have indoor gatherings during a time when a lot of virus is circulating, whether it’s cold or flu, and proximity without masking and especially if there was also no testing requirements.”
He continued, “It’s not surprising that you’re going to have active transmission of viruses, one of the many respiratory viruses that are circulating now.”
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, weekly COVID-19 cases have topped 400,000 for the last six weeks, which are figures not seen since late September although the overall number has declined from last week.
Meanwhile, weekly COVID-19 deaths are trending upward with 3,907 reported as of Jan. 11, CDC data shows, although some of this may be due to reporting lags over the holidays.
Additionally, CDC data shows that while flu cases are declining the cumulative hospitalization rate of 54.4 per 100,000 is 1.8 times higher than the highest figure recorded at this point in the year dating back to the 2010-11 season.
It is well known that infected individuals can expel droplets that move throughout an entire indoor space and even linger after a person leaves the area.
What’s more, with lack of ventilation — be it high-efficiency particle arresting filters or open windows — and people gathered closely together with no masks, Brownstein said it’s no wonder people contracted COVID.
“We sort of have to decide collectively, as a society, what we want to do to keep transmission down,” he said. “Obviously, we know mitigation strategies help and then we recognize that we still have a lot of vulnerable people that are succumbing to COVID.”
Brownstein added, “But I think the idea of testing pre-gathering is still a very good idea, so it makes sense that the Critics Choice Awards used that as a tool to help limit the amount of risk of transmission at the event.”
Brownstein said this doesn’t mean that every event will turn into a super-spreader or that it signals trouble for the U.S. Rather, Americans shouldn’t let their guard down.
“As much as people want to assume that we’ve moved on from the pandemic, the pandemic hasn’t yet moved on from us,” he said. “We’re still dealing with events where that super-spreading can occur and there’s a bivalent vaccine out there that can lower your risk of severe illness and help reduce your risk of severe consequences and deaths from this virus.”