Boston doctor and friends went to Winter Party in Miami, and came home with coronavirus

When Dr. Joshua Ellis went to the Winter Party in Miami, he knew things probably weren’t going to end well.

“There were a lot of warnings and things going on that seemed ominous,” Dr. Ellis told The Boston Globe. “But we were already there and it was just like, ‘Jesus, this is probably going to be a disaster.’ “

That disaster was the looming threat of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that has killed thousands of people around the world, in just a few months since it was discovered in China.

Dr. Ellis, along with several of his friends from around the country, contracted the virus while attending Winter Party events. The group developed symptoms after they flew back to their homes, and they are now  in self-quarantine. (It is expected that they will survive, and hopefully they will all feel better soon.)

At the time of the Winter Party, the coronavirus had not yet impacted the U.S. in a big way, and organizers of the event (the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) announced their decision to not cancel their plans. But Ellis—an emergency room physician at Boston’s prestigious Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—said he could “see the writing on the wall” with how contracting the disease was a possibility. Of course he knew, as he is a physician. And that’s exactly what happened. But why spoil plans for a party?

This coronavirus is mainly transmitted by an infected person touching surfaces and spreading germs. Those surfaces can be anything—doorknobs and countertops are common culprits. Or in the case of a circuit party, infectious germs can be spread along the shiny bare chests of a bunch of men dancing in Speedos and rubbing up against each other. 

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said that they handed out 10,000 packs of hand sanitizer, to protect attendees from the coronavirus, but unless everybody was spreading that hand sanitizer all over their bodies, and covering every area that anybody touched, that hand sanitizer did nothing. When guys are packed onto the dance floor at the Winter Party, their hands wander to lots of unmentionable places. That’s what makes Winter Party so much fun. In the interview with the Globe, Dr. Ellis said he and his friends were touching lots of people, and kissing them, a lot.

It has been stated in the news, repeatedly, that the vast majority of people who contract this coronavirus will survive, and perhaps not even show symptoms. But the threat is severe for people who are vulnerable—because they are elderly, or they have other medical conditions like asthma or diabetes, or they have suppressed immune systems. Dr. Ellis admitted in the interview that he, as a physician, knew this. But he partied on. And of course he and his friends then got onto airplanes, presumably with those germs already cooking inside themselves.

After the Winter Party, the local governments of both Miami and Ft. Lauderdale passed mandates to restrict social events such as Winter Party, and even closed public access to beaches to prevent Spring Break crowds from congregating and potentially becoming hotbeds for coronavirus transmission. 

Now that Dr. Ellis actually is sick from the virus, he said he is “enraged” at the sight of people ignoring directives to avoid social situations, like parties, which—news flash—have the potential of spreading germs that are causing an impending global pandemic.

“You need to self-quarantine now. I can’t stress it enough. I’ve never been so angry about people not following the rules,” Ellis said. “There’s just no way to prevent this from getting to every corner of the country unless you self-quarantine.”

Good advice, doctor.