This is a story from MedPage Today.
For Manoj Jain, MD, MPH, an infectious disease specialist in Memphis, Tennessee, Memorial Day 2019 was a particularly meaningful day: his daughter, a Boston-based attorney, got engaged. The family was looking forward to a big Indian wedding which was planned for Memorial Day 2020. Then COVID-19 hit.
The wedding was postponed and postponed. Then rescheduled again, and many times after. In December 2021, Jain said he mentioned to his daughter and her fiancé that he didn’t think there was a way to hold the event safely at the end of January 2022. Their response was devastating to hear.
“‘Dad, if we don’t do it now, we’re not going to do it again,'” Jain said his daughter told him. “This whole statement made me think, ‘Oh my God, I have to plan something different.'”
Jain, an adjunct assistant professor at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, explained how he managed to plan a large-scale wedding during the height of the Omicron surge during a webinar from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security this week.
“This pandemic has had a professional impact on so many of us,” Jain said, but added that personal events have also raised tough questions as people wonder whether to hold weddings, birthday celebrations, or celebrations. birthday and bar mitzvahs.
“It was a huge challenge,” he said. “And [the wedding] was definitely a big challenge for me.”
Jain explained that he brought his family together to devise a game plan to organize the celebration – and prevent it from becoming a superspreader event. Some of the parameters set for the event included:
Jain said the family held a series of Zoom calls with potential attendees, breaking those requirements, and that one-to-one calling and messaging was key to making sure everyone agreed to the protocol.
Out-of-town guests were required to complete a rapid test within 24 hours before departing for Memphis, then complete another rapid test and a PCR test with a turnaround time of 6 to 12 hours. Local guests were required to complete a PCR test 24 to 48 hours in advance, or be tested at the wedding venue (a hotel) the day before the event (Jain said he worked with several of his assistants from laboratory and a local laboratory to perform the tests).
He said that, out of some 400 guests, there were 10 positive cases identified through pre-festivity testing – six before arrival and four upon arrival (one via rapid test; three via PCR). These people were individually told they couldn’t attend the wedding and all complied, Jain said, adding “Imagine if these 10 people came to the wedding, what a super-spreader that could have been.”
Additionally, there were two guests who had previously decided not to get vaccinated, so the bride told them they couldn’t attend, he said.
Unsurprisingly, Jain said his biggest fear was that the bride or groom would test positive before the wedding. To limit the risks, the bride was in quarantine in the family home in the days before the wedding. She ate separately from other family members and wore a mask when she was with them.
Jain said he even asked the salon workers who were going to do the bride’s makeup to get tested before she arrived for her appointment.
A family member told Jain that he was overdoing some of the precautionary measures and therefore no one would come to his daughter’s wedding. “The virus has no borders,” Jain replied.
He also noted that the hotel’s ventilation system was not in his hands, so the family chose to focus on protective measures they could control.
Jain said the wedding went off without a hitch and none of the guests tested positive afterwards. Although he acknowledged that he was not conducting a scientific study, anecdotal evidence is important. “We can do a big event safely,” he said.
MedPage Today asked Jain if the recent lifting of mask mandates on public transportation, like airplanes, would have changed his plans for the wedding. Jain reiterated the importance of masking. “I think we need to keep mask mandates on planes…it’s a terrible idea to drop that,” he said.
He added that his current concerns include uncertainty over the BA.2 sub-variant, so “masks are very simple…they’re very protective.”
Jain said he hoped more families and friends would be able to gather safely in the coming months. “We are resilient,” he said. “We will find ways to do things.”