DOCTOR ALERTS ABOUT PURIM PARTIES: Coronavirus and Purim: Changing Human Behavior

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As all of you know, the Coronavirus crisis is hitting the United States just as one of the most important holidays falls out this week, Purim. The lessons that are being learned on how to best react and protect those most vulnerable must be learned early and implemented.

The term “community spread” is particularly important in Jewish communities worldwide as we spend so much time together on a weekly basis. All infectious diseases are challenging to the orthodox Jewish community as we have large families, large institutions, and large gatherings. Avoiding rapid and widespread outbreak requires changing human behavior. While this typically means washing hands, avoiding touching one’s face, not shaking hands, and not hugging , in this case we have to add avoiding large gatherings where there is little control.

This is why Purim this year will need a change in human behavior.

I have been in touch with a number of schools and yeshivas regarding how to best react to the rapidly changing advisories and evolving outbreak. The question of large gathering Purim parties should be addressed immediately as we are days away and the number of cases is growing quickly.

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It is my recommendation that these gatherings should not take place where large numbers of people come together for school, shul or community Purim parties. Small family gatherings are much better managed and advised. In cases where family members are obviously sick, they should simply stay home and not risk infecting others who cannot afford the complications. Grandparents and high-risk individuals are much more likely to have serious compromise from this virus and need to be protected. When large gatherings occur especially combined with drinking and dancing, people will not modify their behaviors and exposures are inevitable in very large numbers.

As we are learning from the experience in Westchester, gatherings in shuls can be very dangerous at this point. Even when attending davening, people should be very prepared to change behaviors- no shaking of hands, no hugging, wash hands frequently after touching surfaces.

Most importantly, if you are showing signs of any infection such as fever, cough, aches and pains, chills, or weakness- DO NOT COME TO SHUL OR ANY PUBLIC GATHERINGS. This becomes a simple lesson on Bein Adom L’Chaveiro as well as Bein Adom L’Makom.

Be a good Jew now and change your behaviors in a positive and protective way.

Stuart H. Ditchek, MD, FAAP
Faculty, New York University School of Medicine
Chief Medical Officer, Kids of Courage

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




7 COMMENTS

  1. “Corona crisis”?
    18,000 deaths from the flu this season in the United States compared to 17 from COVID-19.
    The overwhelming majority of those who really test positive for the virus, have mild cough and flu-like symptoms. They all recover.
    Children seem to be immune to it B”H.
    The majority, perhaps all, of those who did, R”L, die from the virus, were otherwise compromised by health issues. All, I believe, were older individuals.

  2. Factually is this really called for at this point? Purim is a tremendous day to semi kill it as if the black plague has arrived. Obviously the more American a community the quicker they are to take drastic measures as we see in the area of security as well. It’s well intentioned but has a dose of over the top cover all your bases attitude common today are we going to add no groups no mikva no tish. What’s the shiur?

  3. Meir, comparing mikva to a tish or purim party is absurd. Mikvah is a Biblical obligation and an absolute requirement if one considers themselves frum. A party for Purim (which is a Rabbinical yomtov) has zero relationship, zero mitzvah, and zero requirement.

  4. Shuali

    (1) I believe your numbers for this are way off. I think we may be looking at several hundred thousand dead from this (extrapolate from the number of people dead compared to the total on the cruise ship… is NYC with its subways and the frum community with its upcoming purim parties somehow going to fare better?) in the US if steps are not taken to contain it. This is a lot worse than the flu.

    (2) The relatively few people dead worldwide, are due to strong measures taken to contain this. Without strong measures the health system would be overwhelmed very quickly (how many ventilators are there in the US?) and the mortality rate could increase significantly.

    (3) As to those compromised by health issues, guess what that is a lot of people. Start thinking through all your family members and consider how many are over 60 or have had health issues, especially affecting their lungs (e.g. asthma).

    Also just consider that China quarantined over 60 Million and restricted movement significantly to combat this and now Italy is restricting over 16 million to deal with this. Are those countries also “overreacting” due to the media or politics? Ted Cruise a staunch conservative is self-quaranting over this while some talking heads on Fox are calling this an overreaction. Pence says one thing while Trump says another. Look at the facts and listen to the experts here. Hatzalah a group of dedicated volunteers is essentially advising the frum world to cancel their purim parties. This is not a decision Hatzalah would come to lightly as they will never live it up from the naysayers.

    We should do our histhadlus here to help prevent our celebration of purim for being an event that allows this to spread dangerously in the jewish community.