Arizona Expert Warns It's Too Soon To Open Bars, Relax Precautions

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Wednesday, August 19, 2020 - 4:38pm
Updated: Friday, August 21, 2020 - 2:47pm
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Arizona State University
Joshua LaBaer

New rates of COVID-19 cases are down and approaching levels from late May, just before the surge began. But one expert from Arizona State University warns relaxed precautions could trigger another tidal wave of infection.

In an online briefing, Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the ASU Biodesign Institute, listed various indicators — from rate of spread to hospital beds — trending in the right direction.

But he emphasized that, without a vaccine, it's too soon to relax precautions or open bars.

"This virus is here, and it will re-emerge in an instant if we let it. The virus doesn't care; it's just looking for a means to transmit from person to person," he said.

LaBaer also said President Donald Trump's speech in Yuma, where only a minority of packed-together people wore masks, bore the hallmarks of a superspreader event, in which one person infects far more people than usual.

Research has revealed such events played an outsize role in the early spread of coronavirus.

One study of a handful of likely superspreader events found 20% of people with the virus caused 80% of subsequent new cases.

"Any close gathering of people who are not wearing masks in high numbers could be a superspreader event, no matter where it is or who's doing it. Those have been documented repeatedly by contact tracers and case investigators," LaBaer said.

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