Oktoberfest virus hysteria and the persistent epidemiological mythology of the mass gathering
There is actually very little evidence that ordinary human celebrations and holidays contribute meaningfully to rates of respiratory infection.
Some odious journaloid named Ekaterina Kel is trying to bring back Oktoberfest panic in that assemblage of daily-issue single-ply toilet paper known as the Süddeutsche Zeitung:
Oktoberfest is in full swing – and the viruses should have an easy time of it. No one can tell how strong the post-Oktoberfest Covid wave will be this year and how much it will impact hospitals. But it’s clearly coming, according to experts.
Ulrike Protzer expects a similar increase as last year. She is director of the Virology Institute at the Technical University of Munich and the Helmholtz Zentrum. “Last year, a wave of respiratory infections emanated from Munich after Oktoberfest. We have to prepare for that again this year,” she says. It is common knowledge that respiratory infections become more prevalent after Oktoberfest. In the past, it was simply called “Wiesn flu,” which did not mean influenza. “Corona has now been added to the spectrum of viruses,” Protzer says.
Here the SZ offers us this intensely misleading graphic of “Covid incidence in Munich around the time of Octoberfest in 2022”:
The article proceeds to quote another virologoid:
Oliver Keppler, head of Virology at Ludwig Maximilian University, also predicts that “We’ll see a significant increase again.” The first place it will show up is in Munich’s sewage, he says. Already about a week after the start of the Wiesn, he’s seen an increase in the samples. These are examined by the Bay-VOC network, of which Keppler is also the spokesman.
The new orthodoxy in pandemicist circles is that measures are over, so to his credit, Keppler is quick to insist that Covid is no reason not to party. As this doesn’t quite align with Kel’s agenda, she turns instead to a highly caricatured version of recent history by way of foreboding:
Before Oktoberfest [in 2022], the seven-day incidence in Munich was just under 200, four days after the festival it was already more than 1000, one of the highest values since the beginning of the pandemic. The numbers also rose sharply in the surrounding districts.
Just one day after the end of the festival, the city reported 137 per cent higher hospital occupancy … The wave had also reached the intensive care units… And Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) predicted more severe disease…. The LMU Clinic reported that hundreds of employees had called in sick, they were once again working in crisis mode. On top of that, the influenza cases were rising sharply. And then the staff council of the Munich Hospital sounded the alarm: “The emergency centres are overcrowded, the patients are piling up in the corridors.” A “new low” had been reached, said the directors of municipal emergency services …
Suddenly, according to cardiologist, intensive care physician and CSU city council vice-chairman Hans Theiss, the Munich health system was “on the verge of collapse” …
The federal government and the Free State of Bavaria “didn’t have the courage to enact the appropriate measures,” Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter complained later – he himself would preferred to require testing before attending the festival. All agreed on one thing: This was a lesson for Oktoberfest in the future … City councillors pondered the idea of compulsory testing.
This year, no one will hear of that. Even the near collapse of the hospitals has been forgotten. No one wants to be the killjoy ...
“Nevertheless, it has to be said: Oktoberfest is an infection-promoting event,” says virologist Oliver Keppler. And Ulrike Protzer adds: “It is precisely places like beer tents that offer viruses the optimal microclimate to spread.” That's why people who are at risk should be careful, she says. And she offers another word of advice: “If you’re at the Wiesn, it’s better to stay outside and not go into the crowded tents. And remember to wear a mask on local transport during the weeks of Oktoberfest.”
First, this is the schoolmarm virologist Ulrike Protzer:
If you take advice from this ridiculous woman on how to celebrate and what to wear on your face on your way to the Wiesn, you’re already lost. This entire plague of academic vermin desperately need to shut up and get back to their laboratories. Ideally we would never, ever hear from them again.
Second, some empirical matters:
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