VDH labels Capitol riots a superspreader event

VDH labels Capitol riots a superspreader event for COVID-19

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As the dust settles on a deadly Wednesday in D.C. where pro-Trump rioters seized the Capitol, health experts with the Virginia Department of Health fear the ramifications of this historic event won’t just be political.

The steady flow of hundreds of rioters - mostly without masks - is what VDH Population Health Deputy Commissioner Laurie Forlano says is a superspreader event that could be the catalyst for another surge in COVID-19.

“That is just kind of the recipe for disease transmission,” Forlano said. “They were very close together, shoulder-to-shoulder in some cases. I think time will tell but there were definitely a lot of things that demonstrated risk.”

Forlano says it could be up to two weeks after a large gathering like the one on Capitol Hill before we see a surge in coronavirus cases, but tracing a potential outbreak to this event could still prove difficult.

“It’s sometimes difficult to ascertain an outbreak so to speak where several people were exposed at a certain location and that takes case investigation, boots on the ground, contact tracing at our health departments,” Forlano said.

Forlano says the biggest risk for transmission is close quarter contact as displayed when hundreds of demonstrators filled the Capitol chambers. She adds that risk from superspreader events can be critically reduced when they take place outside with plenty of room to social distance and masks are worn.

“Wearing a mask works and it has been proven to help decrease the risk of transmission of COVID-19, and the other thing I would say is at least in Virginia - it’s the law,” Forlano said.

Health experts are encouraging people who are inspired to attend events like this to think about how their actions may negatively affect others like those who are Immunocompromised or frontline health care workers.

“Protecting not only our health care beds but also our health care workers is of the utmost importance because we want to make sure that when you go to the hospital, that there is room for you, and there is someone to take care of you,” Forlano said. “In order to do that, we need to protect our doctors and protect our nurses... and if we’re filling up beds and filling up their days with having to take care of COVID-19 patients, there is less room and less time to take care of other patients.”

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