One that, thankfully, I’m not a part of. Last week, Trump, who is only concerned about his political welfare, encouraged people to go to church, and declared that churches were ‘essential.’ While most houses of worship will likely stay closed, some, perhaps many, won’t.
In an uncharacteristic attempt to turn a frown upside down, this provides an interesting quasi-experiment to see how likely large gatherings will lead to outbreaks. Last week, some asshole with a blog noted this about a gym defying shutdown orders:
…the reality is that everyone who uses that gym will be fine…until they’re not. As Yogi Berra would have put it had he been an epidemiologist, the best way to avoid getting an infectious disease is to avoid people who are infected. That is, right now, the odds of a suburban area off the beaten path (tourist season hasn’t started yet in Wildwood, NJ) having very many COVID-19 positive people is low. Additionally, a fair number of the infected will be at home (though not the presymptomatic people) and some of the infections will be within a household, so the number of contacts with an infected person will be limited.
That gym will be fine, until someone who is sick decides to use it, at which point there is a non-negligible chance of a local outbreak (like the Provisional IRA used to say, it only has to get lucky once).
At a larger scale, over the next few months, as various locations in the U.S. loose restrictions, what I think we’ll see is a patchwork of local outbreaks, that have a high degree of randomness. Luck will definitely be a player in all of this, as an infected individual happens into an ‘open’ community–and if things break wrong (for the humans, not the virus), then there’s an outbreak. In other words, the frequency is so low and patchily distributed that many people haven’t been exposed to it at all, and won’t be for some random length of time.
In other words, people can come together and act like idiots, but still not get COVID-19 as long as none of them are infected. So, in a sense, we’re about to find out how many congregations have one or more infectious members. My hunch is, given how COVID-19 is distributed, most congregations will be fine, but a small percentage, probably one percent will get hammered hard. Of course, what happens after the initial outbreak in the congregation is anyone’s guess…