Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there's a yearning for regular times that's understandable and unstoppable. That reality, however, requires doing more to minimize COVID's spread than the strategies employed so far at 2022's high-profile events.
Case in point: the recent return of the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, which was held not long after a previous gathering of Washington, D.C., insiders turned into a COVID superspreader event.
Due to the virus, the correspondents' dinner went on hiatus in 2020 and 2021. Event organizers brought it back this spring. About 2,600 "journalists, celebrities, and political figures" gathered in an indoor ballroom on April 30.
They chose to do so, as Trevor Noah, a comedian and featured speaker, noted that night, despite knowing that many prominent people had become ill with COVID after attending the Gridiron dinner earlier last month.
At least 70 Gridiron attendees became ill. Among them: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The correspondents' dinner organizers chose to go ahead. Not surprisingly, there's now a growing list of attendees who have tested positive for COVID, including journalists reporting for CNN, NBC, CBS, Politico and the Washington Post.
Thankfully, President Joe Biden, who spoke at the dinner, has not become ill. But a key member of his cabinet did: Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
To their credit, the correspondents' dinner organizers required proof of vaccination and a "same-day negative test." But the mounting tally of illnesses illustrates the need to strategize beyond that — something that organizers of graduation ceremonies and other significant springtime events should note.
The correspondents' dinner was held inside. At this point in the pandemic, everyone should understand the inherent COVID risk. The size of this event may have precluded an outdoor venue, which would have been far preferable. But if indoors is the only option, rising COVID cases and hospitalizations strongly suggest that masks should be required for the time being.
Other innovative approaches: shortening events to limit COVID's spread, ensuring that venues have updated air filtration capabilities to clean circulating air and installing unique ultraviolet lights to disinfect the air further. The correspondents' dinner organizers regrettably declined an offer to install such lighting at no charge.
A transition back to pre-pandemic life is well underway. Innovation and smart strategies are crucial to minimizing COVID's risks along the way.