- In counties with high COVID-19 prevalence, families with birthdays had a 31% risk of infection.
- That’s because people tend to gather on birthdays, experts say.
- Unlike public events, the spread of COVID-19 at small gatherings is difficult to measure.
Along with packed weddings and bustling bars, children’s birthday parties were hotbeds for the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, new research reveals.
Using health insurance claims data from 2.9 million households from January to November 2020, researchers at Harvard Medical School, Rand Corporation, and Castright Health found that COVID-19 occurred two weeks after a family member’s birthday. We analyzed the incidence.
Although children develop severe COVID-19 symptoms and are at lower risk of transmitting the virus, the authors found more cases associated with partying among children than adults.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that in counties with a high incidence of COVID-19, families with birthdays two weeks earlier were more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than families with no birthdays. We found that there was a 31% risk of getting infected.
Researchers found that Democrats and Republicans behaved differently during the pandemic, but county political affiliation did not change their risk of contracting COVID-19.
The researchers didn’t track whether families hosted birthday parties, but speculated that people did get together for their children’s birthdays. The more people who attend, the higher the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The spread of COVID-19 has been difficult to track in small gatherings
The spread of COVID-19 has been easier to track at public events, such as measuring COVID-19 cases and deaths, but smaller gatherings have been more difficult to measure.
KJ Seung, Massachusetts’ COVID-19 response strategy and policy chief at Partners in Health and involved in the contact tracing system, told The New York Times that contact tracers should be aware of COVID-19 at social gatherings. said they struggled to track the spread of , because when people met someone for dinner, they either didn’t remember or were embarrassed to admit.
“Small social gatherings are the hardest places to track,” said Seung. But “when I spoke to contact tracers across the country, they were like: Yeah, people are getting infected in these little gatherings.”
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, also told the New York Times that people feel safer at home, unlike in public places. “There was definitely an element of a safe place at home, so when friends and family were at home, I never felt unsafe,” he says.
Given that children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, researchers warned that children’s parties could still be dangerous.