At least four LGBTQ people who were at the Winter Party – a huge circuit party held in Miami earlier this month – have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Other partiers have also developed symptoms.
Earlier this week, the president of the National LGBTQ Task Force Rea Carey announced that someone who was at the Winter Party tested positive for the coronavirus. The event is a fundraiser for the organization.
While the CDC didn’t flatly tell Americans to cancel large events to help slow the spread of the global pandemic until several days after the Winter Party ended on March 10, guidelines were already issued for people to proceed with caution at gatherings of over 250 people, to be wary of events with people from different parts of the country, and to keep a distance of six feet between participants at large events.
The Winter Party brought together thousands of revelers from all over the U.S., dancing shirtless and close together, in conditions where caution can easily be thrown to the wind.
So after one coronavirus case was found among the participants, it’s not surprising that four more were just found.
Dr. Joshua Ellis was one of them. He lives in Boston and he and five of his friends had already rented a house for the week-long circuit party before anyone had heard of COVID-19.
He said that he danced shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, kissing and showing affection at what he thought would be “the last big party event in the country.” Other festivals and gatherings in Miami scheduled for earlier this month had already been canceled at that point.
Carey of the Task Force said that they tried to prevent the spread of the disease by distributing hand sanitizer, which Ellis called “ominous.”
“But we were already there and it was just like, ‘Jesus, this is probably going to be a disaster.’”
Now all six of them are sick with similar symptoms, according to the Boston Globe: chills, sweating, and fatigue. Ellis and three of the others have tested positive for the virus, and Ellis believes the other two have it as well.
“The fear, though, is a lot of them were actively enjoying their social life” before they showed symptoms, he said. They were “going to bars, going to dinners, going and hanging out at friends’ houses, quarantining with friends.”
Ellis went out to dinner with friends when he got back from Florida and attended an event at a health center. He didn’t have a shift at the hospital where he works before he started to show symptoms, though.
One of Ellis’s friends, Adam Vavrek, lives in Seattle and he said that he just felt a little tired after coming home from the Winter Party. He went to his job at a tech company and played sports with a local league. Several days later, he started feeling cold.
“I think a lot of people my age are thinking they might get it, but they’re young and healthy enough to fight it,” he said. “But I think what they don’t consider is who they could potentially pass it on to, others who might not be able to bounce back as quickly.”
Two of the others in the group – who live together in D.C. – also tested positive and texted the group to let them know.
Ellis and Vavrek’s symptoms were mild and they’re both expected to survive, but they had to self-isolate for seven days and inform everyone they came into contact with about their diagnoses.
“It takes five days for symptoms to show up and then it takes three or four days at best for the test results to come back, so that’s nine days of contact with an infinite amount of people,” Ellis said. “And all those people would have to self-quarantine and wait for either symptoms or test results, which would be another nine days.”
Ellis said that he’s “never been so angry about people not following the rules” as when he sees people post pictures to social media at bars or at “quarantine parties.”
“There’s just no way to prevent this from getting to every corner of the country unless you self-quarantine,” said the doctor who came home from a circuit party last week.