BOSTON — Children’s birthday party guests may have brought more than gifts at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and RAND Corp. has been shown to have potential.
Researchers collected US insurance data for 2.9 million households through November 8 and looked at household member birthdays as a proxy for social gatherings and in-person celebrations.
In counties with high COVID-19 infection rates, households with recent birthdays had an average of 8.6 more cases per 10,000 people than those with no birthdays, according to a Harvard Medical School press release. Households with children’s birthdays have 15.8 more cases than households without birthdays, and households with adult birthdays have 5.8 more cases per 10,000 people.
The researchers speculate that children’s birthday parties were less likely to be canceled during the pandemic, or physical distancing may have been less strictly observed at such parties. .
Higher infection rates were not associated with milestone birthdays, local shelter-in-place policies, rainfall levels, or county political trends.
“These gatherings are an important part of the social fabric that binds families and society as a whole,” Anupam Jenna, senior study author and associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, said in a release. “However, as we have shown, high-risk areas can also expose households to COVID-19 infection. It highlights the importance of understanding species and can inform risk-based policy and individual decisions.”
The study was published in the journal online on June 21 JAMA Internal Medicine.