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Back To School And Weekend Events Could Spark Another Surge Of COVID-19 Cases

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - This past weekend was a lot of fun in Pittsburgh with plenty for people to do, including Little Italy Days, Picklesburgh, and of course, a Steelers preseason game.

Now comes the waiting game to see if those events fed the rising number of COVID-19 cases in our area.

The concern is very real because, in all those events, which were largely outdoors, there were a lot of people crowded together and mostly maskless.

With so many anxious to get back to some semblance of normal, we gathered in big numbers, hoping the wind would carry away any threat.

"Now it is possible for the virus to spread outdoors, you know, the closer the people are together if they're in crowded situations and if you're talking about people that are unmasked and unvaccinated there can be spread there," said Dr. Nathan Shively, an infectious disease specialist for Allegheny Health Network.

He says we are now in the window to start seeing an impact.

"That can be or turning into developing symptoms that can be anywhere from four to 14 days, so usually after events like this we see people start showing up with symptoms within a week they can be as long as two weeks," he said. "Starting by this weekend you might see some rising cases."

As far as hospitalizations, Dr. Shively said those lag a week or two behind the cases when they start to rise.

Again, these were outdoor events and there was no requirement for masks.

While that's true, Dr. Shively said if you are going to attend a crowded event, even outdoors, you're better to mask up to protect yourself and others.

WATCH: COVID Risk When Students Return

He also has concerns about schools reopening and he's quite blunt about it.

"I'm very concerned about school districts in our area that have gone to an optional masking policy," he said. "Especially elementary schools, for example, where all of the students will be unvaccinated."

As the school bells ring and children settle into the new school year, there is growing concern over what is ahead. In what has turned out to be the controversy of late summer, some districts are mandating masks and others are keeping it optional.

So, is a school surge of COVID-19 in the near future?

Dr. Shively is worried that the delta variant will exploit the vulnerable.

"We're talking about an indoor situation with unvaccinated and unmasked students," he said. "So, the schools that have gone optional rather than required for masking are setting themselves up for potential outbreaks they're setting themselves up to have a lot of students in quarantine and they're putting their students and their staff at risk."

Dr. Shively said the benefit of having children in the classroom is unquestioned, but keeping them in there requires precautions.

"If you're trying to keep butts in seats, the best way to do that is to require universal masking in schools," he said.

He said if the school district does not require children to wear masks, parents should mask their children for the health and safety of their families.

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