Data: One-third of people who tested COVID-19 positive and attended mass gatherings went to a bar

Health Department releases new contact-tracing data
Posted at 10:47 PM, Aug 07, 2020

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Health Department has been tasked with tracing the footsteps of those who test positive for COVID-19. Now, contact-tracing data on the health department's website shows that, of those who attended mass gatherings, nearly one-third had been to a bar or nightclub.

The information doesn’t mean those who test positive for COVID-19 contracted the virus at a bar, nightclub, restaurant or any other establishment – but epidemiologists said it’s valuable to know what kinds of places people are going to the most.

Health department data surveying a little more than 1,000 people shows those who attended a large gathering, just north of 30%, had recently been to a bar. Other activities like travel, parties and shopping fell sharply behind.

“I appreciate the amount of work that went into this sample study, into this analytic,” Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment CEO Britney Ruby Miller said.

“I do see on this list that restaurants are significantly less than bars and large gatherings, but I still question the data,” she said.

Miller is also a member of Ohio’s Restaurant Advisory Group, which helped develop the statewide rules for the industry. She doesn’t want this data to discourage people from patronizing her business or others.

“This just means of the 1,000 people who tested positive for COVID, x amount of them happened to have visited either a large gathering, a bar, or a restaurant,” she said “That’s a big difference than stating they got it from a bar, restaurant, retail, whatever that might be.”

Miller said she believes more resources should be diverted to code enforcement, preventing large gatherings from becoming super-spreader events.

“That information is useful from the standpoint of any type of cluster or outbreak investigation, not just COVID,” said Kim Wright, supervising epidemiologist of the Cincinnati Health Department’s Communicable Disease Unit.

She said the data isn’t designed to place blame, rather to inform. She knows people are trying to keep their businesses open.

“What I would take from it is that if I wanted to avoid COVID-19, I would avoid the locations where it looks like the largest number of people who have COVID-19 have been,” Wright said.