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Dozens Contract Covid-19 After Abundance 360 Conference

Peter Diamandis thought extensive testing could help create an “immunity bubble” for a conference in Culver City, Calif. It didn’t work. “I hope others can learn from my mistakes,” he said.

A technology executive in California has apologized for hosting a conference in Culver City after which two dozen attendees and staff members at the event tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I was wrong,” Mr. Diamandis said, adding that masks, physical distancing and vaccines were the best ways to fight the virus. “I hope others can learn from my mistakes.”

Mr. Diamandis said that the people who attended the event had been asked to share negative test results for the coronavirus before they arrived, and that workers and attendees were tested repeatedly at the event, yielding more than 450 negative results.

“I trusted that an immunity bubble was a ‘real thing,’” Mr. Diamandis said.

But two days after the studio production ended, he said, a member of his staff tested positive. He sent emails to inform attendees, urging them to isolate and get tested again.

On Tuesday, state and county health officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether Mr. Diamandis could be fined or otherwise disciplined.

He added that as a scientist with a medical degree, “I have a special responsibility to learn from mistakes, lead by example and use the resources at my disposal to make a positive difference and improve the health and safety of everyone on this planet.”

He said he was doubly committed to fighting the virus but did not answer questions about the cost of tickets to the January event, or about whether there had been any response from state or local officials.

Some types of tests, especially the ones that deliver rapid results, do not reliably detect low levels of the virus and can mislabel infected people “negative.” And even the best tests cannot see into the future: People can contract the coronavirus after a negative test result.

According to Mr. Diamandis, attendees took P.C.R. tests, which are molecular tests processed using a technique called polymerase chain reaction. These tests are considered relatively reliable, but they are not perfect. (Antigen tests, which are meant to detect pieces of coronavirus proteins rather than their genetic materials, tend to deliver results faster than molecular tests but are worse at identifying coronavirus cases.)

The P.C.R. tests created a false sense of security, according to Mr. Diamandis’s blog post. “We did not make it a requirement to wear masks 100 percent of the time at the studio,” he said. “This is definitely one of my biggest failings and one of the most important lessons learned.”

Those lessons — especially about relying too much on test results — hit home for Mr. Diamandis after he got sick himself.

“Once it was clear that I personally had contracted Covid-19 (which sucks as much as everyone says it does), I tested myself with rapid P.C.R. and rapid antigen every day, twice per day, for several consecutive days,” he wrote. “I was flabbergasted that NONE of the tests turned up positive.”

Four days into his quarantine, a P.C.R. spit test finally detected the virus, Mr. Diamandis said.

He also noted that one group of people at the Culver City event — the 35 audiovisual experts who ran the live broadcast — wore masks throughout the production process and did not report any positive test results.

“There were NO COVID cases amongst this group,” Mr. Diamandis wrote. “Bottom line again: Masks work.”

Category: Technology

Source: New York Times

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