Like the rest of the world, America is dealing with the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus in fits and starts. Indoor mask mandates are returning to some locations, messaging from the CDC continues to change about the risks that even vaccinated people will face as they continue to live amid the pandemic, and uncertainty looms as late summer starts moving toward another winter of cold and flu season.
Which is perhaps why noted medical expert Bill Burr’s prediction of coronavirus infections from an outdoor gathering of basketball fans actually coming true is so depressing. During the NBA Finals, the comedian and actor ranted about anti-vax people on a podcast, noting the risks of unvaccinated people gathering in large groups. Burr predicted in his rant that unvaccinated fans there “probably created a new variant of the f*cking coronavirus” and blasted those skeptical of the vaccine. And while the new variant prediction doesn’t appear to have come true just yet, he was right that cases would come from the gatherings.
According to CNN, hundreds of cases related to the Bucks’ Deer District playoff gatherings have been reported in the days since the conclusion of the NBA Finals.
At least 491 cases have arisen from people who “self-declared” they attended a Deer District gathering at some point during the month of July, according to Milwaukee Health Department spokesperson Emily Tau.
But health officials cautioned that while the 491 confirmed cases were from people who either attended an NBA Finals game inside the arena or gathered in the Deer District while the games were being played, they cannot be sure the virus was acquired in these settings.
There are a lot of caveats to the report, starting with the fact that these numbers include thousands of people who were inside Fiserv Arena and may have contracted coronavirus there. Then there’s the additional uncertainty about where those cases were actually contracted. Considering just how many Deer District gatherings took place over the months-long NBA postseason and a lack of pinpointing where the cases were spread, there’s no true superspreader event to point to. But it’s yet another example of how a return to a more normal life with mass gatherings is complicated and maybe premature, especially if those gatherings include unvaccinated people.