Recent clusters of COVID cases have government officials frustrated. While the vast majority of Cape residents are being careful and taking precautions, others have gone to house parties. And that is nothing but trouble. “It’s profoundly disrespectful to those who have been working hard to slow community spread,” said state Senator Julian Cyr. Vaira Harik, deputy director of the county Department of Human Services, said it is “irresponsible” for people to gather in groups.

We have also thought of such behavior in those terms, particularly in regard to the 11 lifeguards in Falmouth who came up sick after attending a party.

Nancy Keates in a story published in The Wall Street Journal made the case that calling gatherings “disrespectful” and “irresponsible” misses the point, at least when it comes to young people, the demographic where most new cases are popping up.

Rather than irresponsible, what young people are doing is entirely normal: socializing and exploring are part of the process of establishing their identities.

Ms. Keates cites a professor of psychology at Harvard who called such behavior “a neurobiological mandate.” Experiences, socializing among them, affect brain development. As a result, young people crave social interaction. It is a biological need.

So scolding or shaming will not do much of anything to curtail behavior that is risky in the COVID world but is otherwise normal. It would perhaps be better to guide those behaviors. Perhaps it would be better to send the message that it is okay to gather but do it in small groups and do it outdoors.

That idea will not appeal to those who believe that there is no such thing as too much caution. But it can be argued that a little risk is far better than the high risk, very high risk, of house parties.

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