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Cerabino: A reprieve from 'mass gatherings' in Florida -- whatever that means
Palm Beach Post - 3/12/2020
News item: As a way to fight the spread of the coronavirus in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the cancellation of "mass gatherings" for the next 30 days.
The governor did not define a "mass gathering."
I don't blame him. It's not so cut and dried.
The World Health Organization says that mass gathering can be political, cultural, sporting or religious.
And they are further subdivided into being planned or spontaneous, or by their activity level: seated, standing or mobile.
So, I guess you could say that any Saturday afternoon at Costo is a kind of "mass gathering."
It would be under the category of a planned, mobile, cultural event -- the quest for mega-rolls of toilet paper and free toothpicked-food samples.
There isn't a solid number that magically makes something a "mass gathering." The Centers for Disease Control puts the low end at 1,000 people.
But with this coronavirus, elected leaders have been wanting to go smaller. New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo put the number at 500. Miami's Mayor Carlos Giminez said he wants all gatherings of more than 250 people to be canceled.
The key factor in determining whether something is a mass gathering probably shouldn't be numerically based. It should be measured by how close you are required to be to other people.
If you're forced to breathe the exhalations of numerous strangers at close range, that ought to be a weighted determinant in the mass-gathering math.
I've been on some packed, slow elevators, when maybe there were 15 people in them, but it felt like 50. They're mass gatherings, in my book.
I would say there are, at most, five legitimate spots in an elevator: the four corners of the car and the space for one person in the middle. Any more than five people on an elevator, and it ought to count as a "mass gathering."
Same thing with commercial airliners. That JetBlue flight that arrived in Palm Beach International Airport Wednesday night with a coronavirus-infected passenger aboard might not qualify as a "mass gathering."
After all, the airliner was carrying just 114 passengers, which is a smaller number than most people would consider as the mass-gathering threshold.
And yet, I would rather take my chances at the popular St. Patrick's Day Parade in Delray Beach.
The Saturday parade was one of those mass gathering events that got canceled. But at least it was outdoors. And you could get some space and fresh air between you a nearby sniffler.
No such luck on an airliner.
One mega mass gathering coming up for Florida is WrestleMania 36 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on April 5.
Last year's WrestleMania event at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, drew an announced attendance of 82,265 people.
It would be hard to screen that number of people to see if any of them are waiting to get their coronavirus test results back from the lab.
No word as of Thursday evening whether the upcoming wrestling event will be canceled.
And then there's President Donald Trump's assertion about a political rally in Florida later this month.
"We have a big one in Tampa, all sold out," he said Thursday. "We have 100,000 requests for tickets. But we'll probably not do it, because people say it's better to not do."
The "sold out" rally hadn't been announced yet.
Which leads to the question: If you cancel an imaginary mass gathering, does that make it a real mass deception?
See? Getting to the meaning of a "mass gathering" is tougher than it looks.
(c)2020 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
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