VIDEO: Large outdoor crowd at The Banks draws response from Gov. Dewine

“It would not be a place I would advise my family to go. I would not go there.”

DORA crowds on Opening Day

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Overhead video of The Banks on Opening Day shows a large crowd assembled with inconsistent social distancing and mask use.

The CDC advises people wear masks during outdoor activities except when actively eating or drinking. People should also stay six feet apart from those with whom they don’t live. Ohio Department of Health orders are in effect mirroring that advice.

Similar photos circulated on social media last weekend during the first days of the designated outdoor refreshment area, where people can carry drinks from bar to bar using special cups. The optics of those photos prompted reaction from local and state politicians.

Cincinnati City Council member David Mann requested a report evaluating compliance with COVID safety measures at the DORA, which the city implemented with much fanfare — and conceivably some foresight — in March.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine described the photos as “troubling” during his Thursday media briefing, adding he would like to have seen more people wearing masks.

“It would not be a place I would advise my family to go,” the governor said. “I would not go there.”

Large crowds fill DORA on Opening Day

The data on outdoor transmission of COVID-19 are generally limited, according to a widely cited review of studies published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases late last year.

Part of the problem, according to one study, is that activities associated with large outdoor events, such as driving to them or spending part of the time inside, could be as likely to increase transmission as outdoor transmission by itself. Those confounding variables are difficult, if not impossible, to measure out.

The review nevertheless found the likelihood of transmission indoors to be 20 times greater than outdoors.

One of the review’s authors, Nooshin Razani, a University of California, San Francisco professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, recently spoke to the USA Today.

“Outdoors are not only safe but really, really important,” Razani said.

Health experts maintain transmission is possible outdoors, but the likelihood is massively reduced due to the dispersive effects of fresh air and the presence of ultraviolet light that kills the virus. Lack of social distancing naturally increases the risk, as does the duration of time spent in one place.

Still, the question of whether transmission can happen outdoors is potentially less important than whether transmission at an outdoor event would be greater than what that group would be doing otherwise. A similar argument was made by bar and restaurant owners, many of them at The Banks, when DeWine imposed the 10 p.m. curfew last year.

It’s a difficult balance for policy makers. Little public appetite exists for further health orders, but cases are increasing again in Ohio, particularly cases of variants that are more transmissible than the original COVID strain.

At the same time, around 38 percent of Ohio adults have received at least one vaccine dose, and immunity against COVID-19 due to previous infection figures to place population-level immunity somewhere above that mark. Experts say herd immunity could take hold when vaccine uptake exceeds 70 percent.

It remains to be seen whether DeWine will take steps to address the DORA during this pivotal moment in the pandemic. If he does plan to do so, he did not hint as much Thursday.

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