We All Need To Be Aware Of 'Living Room Spread' Right Now

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
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Our Christmas was just as quiet as our Thanksgiving. My family of six didn’t travel to spend the weekend in a hotel with cousins and grandparents. We didn’t host anyone around our dining room table, decorate sugar cookies with my nephews, or meet up with my cousin to exchange funky gifts. Our gift openings happened via video chat. We felt sadness and disappointment, but we also knew that we were absolutely not going to contribute to the “living room spread” of the coronavirus.

I’ve been accused of living in fear, of not trusting in God to protect me, and of not recognizing that the survival rate of the virus is pretty darn good. That’s really easy for privileged, able-bodied, white people to say. Meanwhile, people of color (like my children), the uninsured (or under-insured), those who live in COVID-19 hot spots (where hospitals are full), and those with underlying medical conditions (like myself) know the grim reality. We have valid concerns and thus, many of us have chosen to yield to what Dr. Fauci recommended: no small family gatherings. Why? Because living room spread is real, and we need to talk about it.

Dara Kass, MD, explained on Twitter how living room spread works. Even one person, with a negative test, can spread the virus among those they come into contact with. She starts by sharing that an adult child comes home to see his family with negative COVID-19 results. From there, things go quickly downhill.

Oh, it’s not over, not even close. She continues by sharing that on Monday, mom heads to work and hangs out with some colleagues — maskless. The nanny is at home with the kids. The 20-year-old, white brother who came home to visit his younger siblings tests positive for COVID-19. Then the next day, mom develops symptoms and starts tracking contacts. Wednesday, mom tests positive, and the contacts (the children, the office mates, and the family nanny) quarantine. They have tested negative. The nanny chooses to stay with the family she works for rather than go home and risk exposing her own kids. Thursday, mom feels worse. Friday, the nanny tests positive and is symptomatic. Sunday, one of the mom’s office mates tests positive. On Monday, the mom’s three-year-old tests positive.

By Wednesday, everyone is improving except the nanny, who doesn’t have a primary health care provider. She’s a sixty-year-old Black woman. The following Monday, she’s hospitalized. Dr. Kass shares that this is a true story, one of a family she knows. And it started with a small, “living room” gathering of loved ones. (We mention the race of some of the individuals, as we are well-aware that a person’s race can absolutely be a factor in the medical care they receive.)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shared a video with his Twitter followers which states that 70% of cases can be traced back to small gatherings—including those in homes. Yes, that’s 70%, as in, the majority of virus cases.

Maybe you think we can breathe a sigh of relief. Vaccines are here and being administered, the holidays are over, and spring is on its way. Let’s remember, very few people have access to the vaccine thus far and it requires two doses, the second dose administered three to four weeks after the initial dose. Furthermore, the holidays may be over, but once the weather begins to warm up, there will be more temptations for gatherings such as to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, sports seasons, and more.

The virus isn’t gone. Not even close. The United States COVID-19 death toll is over 350,000 to date. People of all ages and levels of health are getting sick. Over the past week, I read the heartbreaking stories of a four-year-old boy and an eighteen-year-old girl who lost their lives. The eighteen-year-old’s mother reported that her daughter was healthy with no underlying conditions. Scary Mommy has shared other stories, including a mom who gave birth and then died three weeks later from the virus.

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The reality is, those small gatherings, the ones where there’s no precautions such as distancing and wearing masks, aren’t safe. As Dr. Kass’ tweets illustrate, it only takes one person to get several people sick with varying degrees of outcomes. Those with compromised immunity and the elderly are among us. Some hospitals are reporting shortages of ventilators, oxygen tanks, and other necessary supplies to treat coronavirus patients. Other hospitals are brimming with patients and aren’t accepting transfers. Here’s the deal, friends. We aren’t out of the woods yet, so we need to stop acting like it.

I understand the emotions that come with choosing not to see family and friends, or if doing so, following the mask and distancing rules. Is it awkward and uncomfortable at times? Absolutely yes. However, I personally cannot imagine being the person who gives the virus to an elderly relative, or my sweet nephews, or anyone else. There’s no guarantee that the outcome of infection will be good. There are people who are now considered to be COVID-19 long haulers, experiencing symptoms of the virus for weeks or months after infection, some of their symptoms are debilitating.

Many people have thrown their hands up and said, “I’ll take my chances.” They get together and gamble their lives and the lives of their loved ones. However, we know that from story after story, those living room events can become the ones that pose the greatest risk to those we love.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.

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