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Was Oshkosh a Super-Spreader Event? Of Course, It Was.

The current strain of the virus is easily transmissible but carries a lower risk to vaccinated individuals

Oshkosh 2022 Bonanza Group Parking
Photo by Jim Koepnick

As I wrote in a previous story, people who attended Oshkosh AirVenture in late July were taking a risk of coming home with an unwelcome passenger—a case of COVID-19. And based purely on anecdotal evidence, lots of people had just that experience.

A competing aviation news outlet asked that very question the other day, and there was, predictably, a something-storm of response. Who knows, maybe that was the entire point of the piece. And good on them. The question, even if you don’t like it, deserves to be asked, though the answer might not be what the asker anticipates.

Our view? At this point, we’re grown-ups, we recognize the risk and we felt that the greatest airshow in the world was worth the risk. I sure felt that way.

I was one of the only people in the crowd wearing a mask the first few days, not because I was trying to avoid other people’s germs as much as I was protecting them from me. My spouse came down with COVID after a trip to a conference that, like Oshkosh, was not to be missed, but I didn’t find out until I was on the road to the show. I was upset that my streak of Oshkosh AirVenture attendance might be snapped at 30, but I tested negative twice before the first day of the show, so I attended and wore a mask the first couple of days until I tested negative a third time, which I did on Monday evening.

It’s doubtful that more than a handful of others in the hundreds of thousands at OSH were as careful, and at this point, that’s the way it is. I know that, and if I choose to interact, I’m taking the risk that the person I’m chatting with has the virus and might even know they do but have mild symptoms.

At this point, anyone who has been vaccinated and boosted—I’m there and then some—has a really low risk of serious illness if they catch it. Some of us have a greater risk, but it’s still small, according to the CDC. And if you’re looking at numbers of infections from one of those trackers still monitoring the progress of the impact of the virus, you’ll notice the numbers are low. That is not because there are few cases but because few people are reporting them.

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At this point, let’s face it: Life is a super-spreader event. If you go out and play with thousands of other people without socially distancing or wearing masks, people are going to get it. There was nothing special about Oshkosh in this regard, except perhaps that it was way, way more fun than your average super-spreader event.

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