A local infectious disease expert spoke about the risks of being in large crowds.By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The longer the pandemic goes, the more people are venturing out and gathering.

Sure, everyone is sick of the precautions but just how much risk is still out there?

Governor Tom Wolf on Monday put it this way, “There’s a virus out there and the virus really likes it when you bring a lot of people together. That’s what we know. And so you ignore that at your peril, yeah, you could ignore reality, but that reality is the virus is out to get us.”

“I think that there’s a lot of truth to that,” says Allegheny Health Network Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Nathan Shively,

“The virus is still very much in the community. I know we’ve all been dealing with this for a long period of time. But the virus is still very much with us You know, locally in Allegheny County, our rates are lower than they were say, in July, but it’s still very much in the community and having community transmission. And so as people go out into the community we all have to think about where we might be exposed and what we can do to protect ourselves from being exposed.”

So is there an accelerating level of risk as the number of people in any one environment grows?

“As the crowd size grows, we’re just increasing the number of potential people that may have it within that crowd. As you know, up to 40% or so people may have it and not know that they have it. So if the crowd size is bigger, you increase your chances that you will be exposed to somebody who does have it. And if you’re someone that’s carrying, that is asymptomatic, you’re also increasing the chances that you may transmit to others that are within that crowd.”

What about going to a restaurant now that seating capacities have increased to 50% socially distanced?

Dr. Shively says, “As long as you’re socially distance from other folks, it’s possible to be in that type of environment safely. Although you know there’s also some evidence that the virus can be spread more readily in places where, where there is poor ventilation, so that’s something to consider when you choose where you are going.”

As for tailgating by the boats on the Allegheny Wharf for Pitt and Steelers games, “If you’re celebrating outside where there’s where there’s great ventilation and you’re with people that you’re with all the time anyway, for example, those that in your household, I think there’s fairly little risk in doing something like that now. The more people that are coming, even in outdoor areas where you’re grouping together and you’re very close together, then that risk goes up.”

And what about for a political rally?

“You know, I think those types of of large crowd gatherings are those where we are generally encouraging people to, to avoid going to those because the risk of transmission can be so much higher especially if people are close together. If people do make the decision to go then we would definitely encourage folks to wear masks to try to keep distance from others as much as they’re possible and to focus on good hand hygiene, with hand sanitizer or washing your hands with any with any contacts.”

Even the Trump campaign acknowledges the risk in its waiver all participants must agree to when they register to attend the rally.

Dr. Shively understands people are sick of having to be careful, but he cautions it needs to be our way of life for an unknown number of months to come.