What if College Football Is Not a ‘Superspreader?’

 

There has yet to be an actual COVID-19 superspreader event. The Sturgis biker rallies, the 2020 Thanksgiving homeward migrations, the evil open beaches in Florida did not create even a ripple. COVID infections have risen and fallen in seasonality waves of nearly identical size and duration across large regions no matter who is governor or what NPIs were imposed or when they were imposed or lifted or whether and when people were permitted to gather.

Saturday, there were enormous unmasked crowds at college football games. Of particular interest could be Penn State’s big win over Auburn in front of over 100,000 unmasked fans (20,000 students) from all over Pennsylvania and elsewhere. (Penn St is always one of the top five college programs in home attendance.) The stadium is in the center of a populous state. It may be COVID’s last chance for a superspreader event in the mid-Atlantic.

COVID-19 has a dim future because increasing acquired immunity plus resistance provided by vaccines are together rapidly building herd immunity or its functional equivalent. This winter’s flu season will almost certainly be a last hurrah before the bug recedes into an endemic annoyance. And the last chance for an anomalous, actual superspreader peak would appear to be right now through mid-October.

How can we tell if Penn St- Auburn was a superspreader event?  Easy. Look for a change in the curve.  If COVID departs from its established pattern for the region, we can infer an intervening change. Below are the case curves for PA, DE, and MD. Notice any similarity? Duh. All three appear to be headed for or already hitting a peak.  If PA departs from that shared regional pattern over the next two or three weeks the difference could be attributable to a forced intervening change. I’m betting it does not.

Will we ever really know how COVID gets around?

As a gedanken experiment, let’s examine two theories of transmission that we know to be wrong:

  1. COVID-19 is only transmitted by large load infected droplets delivered in close contact much like smallpox or Ebola.
  2. It is as if COVID-19 viral particles are virtually everywhere in long-lasting aerosols. Infection depends not on viral load but on the susceptibility of the individual since virtually everybody gets exposed eventually.

If we think of these statements as defining opposite poles on a spectrum, where on that spectrum are most infections taking place? The closer we are to #1, then masks, closures, and quarantines would have had a dramatically noticeable effect. But they did not.

Weirdly enough, the second statement appears to be a better explanation for what happened to us. That is by no means proof of proposition #2–it simply cannot be possible that there were no healthy persons who were infected by inhaling large viral loads emitted by a sick person— but it should make us wonder why our experts stubbornly act as if #1 is the sole operant model when we clearly don’t have a good handle on the nature of the pandemic.

I will hazard a guess that politicians, health officials, and medical professionals in general have an irresistible preference for a conventional, exclusive sick-to-healthy transmission model (even in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary) because the alternative is unpalatable: there really was nothing that we could have done to limit the spread or reduce the damage short of a radical isolation program for the highly vulnerable. (You want it to be a nail if all you’ve got is a hammer.)

The existing science and consensus literature in the fall of 2019 as restated by WHO was that border closings and quarantines were useless, that surgical masks would be of marginal if any value, and that lockdowns might delay an increase in cases but only for a short time and any extension or repetition of closures was of no value and come at high cost. 

The bizzaro-world story of COVID-19 is that those who expressly repudiated the known science and implemented the exact opposite nevertheless claimed the mantle of scientific authority. The data accumulated for twenty months continues to expressly invalidate the assumptions that underpinned all government interventions but the normal scientific impulse to question such assumptions in light of the facts is fiercely suppressed by media and academic allies of those (absurdly) claiming to speak for science.

When mask devotees cited the silly Bangladesh study it removed all doubt that science has left the building.

On Oct. 23, when Penn State hosts Illinois, will Pennsylvania case numbers have departed from normal COVID numbers for the region or be on the downswing along with MD and DE? Will some new federal government-induced panic mode have been imposed in the interim?

Will enough experts have the residual scientific integrity and professionalism to reason through the implications of the complete absence of superspreader events and the futility of all the NPIs?  Of course not, but it wouldn’t it be refreshing if they did?

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It would be great if you could let us know if PA differs from the others when that graph is released. I expect it won’t either.

    • #1
  2. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian Clendinen
    @BrianClendinen

    Um it’s been obvious its very hard to have a super spreader environment outdoors since May of last year.

    We could of been holding large events outdoors with no additional protection and nothing would of changed. Indoor events are a completely different story though. I have not heard any knowledgeable people speak if this is typical true of influenza or just COVID.

    • #2
  3. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Brian Clendinen (View Comment):

    Um it’s been obvious its very hard to have a super spreader environment outdoors since May of last year.

    We could of been holding large events outdoors with no additional protection and nothing would of changed. Indoor events are a completely different story though. I have not heard any knowledgeable people speak if this is typical true of influenza or just COVID.

    NYC painted circles on the grass to separate picnickers or sunbathers from one another. Jogging trails had signs about masks and the magical 6-ft distancing. The belief that outdoors was still a transmissions risk was widespread, if absurdly exaggerated.

    Being outdoors would not obviate a transmission risk in a tiered stadium if one were in a persistent cloud of exhalations from people in nearby seats.  Even the Swedes closed sports arenas just in case.  That’s why these events are a pretty good test of transmission models.

    • #3
  4. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Bathos, I think you hit the nail right on the head!  It is pretty obvious that people in charge, like Fauci, has little idea how the virus is spreading, but is afraid to say “I don’t know.”  Instead, he just wings it and makes things up as he goes along, often reversing himself without explanation.  This doesn’t inspire confidence. 

    He should have learned one of the concepts of Rumsfeld’s Rules – “Learn to say “I don’t know.’ If used when appropriate, it will be often.

    I think Fauci and others were swept up in the hysteria over the virus and wanted to appear to be “doing something,” so he did a 180 degree turn on the conventional scientific literature on mask wearing, which was that it was ineffective in public settings.  His ego was not strong enough to withstand criticism for doing the right thing so he caved into the science of “grasping at straws,” along with many others.

    • #4
  5. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian Clendinen
    @BrianClendinen

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Brian Clendinen (View Comment):

    Um it’s been obvious its very hard to have a super spreader environment outdoors since May of last year.

    We could of been holding large events outdoors with no additional protection and nothing would of changed. Indoor events are a completely different story though. I have not heard any knowledgeable people speak if this is typical true of influenza or just COVID.

    NYC painted circles on the grass to separate picnickers or sunbathers from one another. Jogging trails had signs about masks and the magical 6-ft distancing. The belief that outdoors was still a transmissions risk was widespread, if absurdly exaggerated.

    Being outdoors would not obviate a transmission risk in a tiered stadium if one were in a persistent cloud of exhalations from people in nearby seats. Even the Swedes closed sports arenas just in case. That’s why these events are a pretty good test of transmission models.

    That might only be true is if it was basically dead like there’s no wind. As long as there was a slight wind circulating  air  that wouldn’t be an issue. Even then it most likely would be where you be getting infected under the stadium when you go to the restroom or are getting food in  shoulder to shoulder crowds and spending  like 15 minutes or more in a place that basically was not having air circulate in and out. Most stadiums are so open you don’t have that issue.

    • #5
  6. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Brian Clendinen (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Brian Clendinen (View Comment):

    Um it’s been obvious its very hard to have a super spreader environment outdoors since May of last year.

    We could of been holding large events outdoors with no additional protection and nothing would of changed. Indoor events are a completely different story though. I have not heard any knowledgeable people speak if this is typical true of influenza or just COVID.

    NYC painted circles on the grass to separate picnickers or sunbathers from one another. Jogging trails had signs about masks and the magical 6-ft distancing. The belief that outdoors was still a transmissions risk was widespread, if absurdly exaggerated.

    Being outdoors would not obviate a transmission risk in a tiered stadium if one were in a persistent cloud of exhalations from people in nearby seats. Even the Swedes closed sports arenas just in case. That’s why these events are a pretty good test of transmission models.

    That might only be true is if it was basically dead like there’s no wind. As long as there was a slight wind circulating air that wouldn’t be an issue. Even then it most likely would be where you be getting infected under the stadium when you go to the restroom or are getting food in shoulder to shoulder crowds and spending like 15 minutes or more in a place that basically was not having air circulate in and out. Most stadiums are so open you don’t have that issue.

    You are probably right but I am reluctant to opine too specifically about how COVID is transmitted when I just did a post in which the main point is that nobody really knows the range and frequency of ways the damn thing gets around.  I am not a Democrat so I value consistency (or at least the appearance thereof).

    Cheers.

    • #6
  7. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Everyone who enjoys life and loves freedom, (but I repeat myself) has to rejoice in the spontaneous celebration of college football this season. Imagine the joy of participating in super spreading events, mask free, and at the same time being able to chant F*** Joe Biden! We live in good times. Take pleasure in the few opportunities we have left.

    • #7
  8. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Football, crowded nightclubs, it doesn’t matter.  After Democrats  have shut down enough to steal  the next two elections   they’ll have several more layers of the military and it won’t matter what a few die hard Republican believe.  

    • #8
  9. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I Walton (View Comment):

    Football, crowded nightclubs, it doesn’t matter. After Democrats have shut down enough to steal the next two elections they’ll have several more layers of the military and it won’t matter what a few die hard Republican believe.

    Kinda dark, big guy.  The bad guys need to stupid to keep winning but at some point there just isn’t enough stupid to sustain that goatf*ck of an ideology.

    • #9