Over the past week or so, the United States has slowly woken up to the pandemic that is COVID-19, known to many as the novel coronavirus. Government, at all levels, have instituted rues and guidelines in order to stymie the spread of the sometimes fatal virus, and most large events over the next two months have been cancelled -- most medium-sized events have as well for that matter, with the CDC recently advising that any event with over 50 people scheduled for over the next eight weeks be cancelled or postponed. But these are all recent changes.
Just a week ago, the annual Winter Party Festival put on their event, which reportedly brings in about 10,000 gay men. For the 2020 edition, things seemed to be especially packed as for the first time ever, the event sold out of advance tickets to its "famous" Beach Party and issued additional tickets to be purchased at the door. The week-long celebration features massive crowds, dancing (and more) mostly shirtless in Miami -- you know, the opposite of social distancing. And now, reports are surfacing that attendees have tested positive for COVID.
"I am writing to let you know that on Saturday night (the 14th), I was informed that one of our Winter Party Festival (WPF) guests has tested positive for COVID-19 this last week," Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, which puts on the event, wrote in an Instagram post Sunday night. "We are grateful to them for alerting us, particularly given that they were not experiencing symptoms during WPF. While we know there are many places people could have been exposed before and after Winter Party as this virus has developed, we wanted to make sure you have this information as soon as possible. The health and safety of anyone who participates in any Task Force event is of great importance to us."
On social media additional reports count as many as four attendees who have tested positive since the event, with some worrying that in the days since, many of the party goers have integrated into their local gay nightlife as well, frequently gay clubs and parties.
"Given what we knew at the time about the virus prior to WPF and working with local Miami Beach officials, we took steps to ensure the safety of attendees," Carey wrote. "The educational posters throughout WPF venues and 10,000 hand sanitizers we distributed over the weekend were both appreciated and utilized by attendees."
Carey also urged anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to report it to Festival organizers.
In the midst of the pandemic, Americans are urged to practice social distancing -- which includes working from home, and avoiding the public unless necessary, -- washing their hands with soap and water, as well as using hand sanitizer, and not touching their faces.
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