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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

If you have had a birthday party during the pandemic, you may have increased your likelihood of catching the coronavirus, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: It's well known that social gatherings help the coronavirus spread. But the study illustrates the limitations of government policies — such as closing restaurants, bars and schools — that reduce public gatherings but have no power over private ones.

What they found: In counties with high coronavirus prevalence, households that included someone with a birthday in the prior two weeks had 8.6 more coronavirus diagnoses per 10,000 people than households without any birthdays.

  • Children's birthdays were associated with a larger increase in diagnoses than adult birthdays.
  • There wasn't a difference between counties that former President Trump won in 2016 and those that Hillary Clinton won, "suggesting that individuals’ decisions on whether and how to gather for birthdays were similar between these areas, despite differences in state policies and political views around social distancing and masking."

The bottom line: Viruses don't care whether you're in a restaurant or your neighbor's house. If there's ever another pandemic, we'll be wise to keep this in mind.

Go deeper

Sep 29, 2021 - Health

CDC issues urgent advisory calling on pregnant people to get COVID vaccine

Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The CDC issued "an urgent health advisory" on Wednesday urging people who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Why it matters: The CDC said it "strongly recommends" vaccination because its benefits for a pregnant person and the fetus outweigh the risks. It added that pregnant people with COVID-19 are at "increased risk" of outcomes such as preterm birth, stillbirth and admission of a newborn into the ICU.

AT&T mandates COVID vaccination for most unionized workers

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

AT&T expanded its COVID-19 vaccine mandate Wednesday to employees who are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union.

Why it matters: The communications giant is one of the biggest employers in the U.S. to require frontline workers to be vaccinated against the virus. The union said it represents some 90,000 AT&T workers, per AP.

Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to Parkland school shooting

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the defense table during jury selection at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday pleaded guilty on all counts for carrying out the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, including 14 students and three staff members.

Driving the news: Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty at a hearing on Wednesday to 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for carrying out the deadly shooting.