“We’re seeing more cases. We’re seeing more hospitalizations," one local doctor said.By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Small groups may feel safe, but these deceptively innocent gatherings are driving the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

“It’s the smaller concentrations that are more concerning,” says AHN internist Dr. Randolph Peters.

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Earlier outbreaks happened in nursing homes and nightclubs. Now it’s sleepovers, carpools, dinner parties and game nights. People are tired of the pandemic and have increased their social bubbles.

“As you increase the number of people, you’re not increasing the precaution. You’re increasing the opportunity for mistakes,” Dr. Peters said.

More and more contact tracers are being led to these types of scenarios.

“People are trying so hard, and people are taking so many precautions, and people get tired, and you think just this one time,” Dr. Peters said.

It’s the ideal setting for spread — people crowded together indoors with poor ventilation.

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Contact tracers are facing more time-consuming work as people who are infected list more close contacts than earlier in the pandemic.

“It’s about being a link in the chain of transmission,” says Dr. Peters. “And you don’t want to be part of the chain that connects that virus to your friend’s schoolteacher’s mother, who will die in the intensive care unit and you’ll never know.”

The more people get it, the more it impacts hospitals. And that could affect you.

“We are on a knife’s edge here in western Pennsylvania,” says AHN Emergency Medicine physician Dr. Arvind Venkat. “We’re seeing more cases. We’re seeing more hospitalizations.”

“We’re better at treating those patients than we were in the spring. But that’s of little comfort because we can very easily be overwhelmed. And that has consequences for everybody in society,” he added.

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It’s a cycle that feeds on itself. These small gatherings lead to more community spread and more spread is making the small groups riskier.