About a year after community spread of COVID-19 began to be recognized across the United States, and around the time the U.S. death toll from the virus approached a half million people, a bar in Illinois with a capacity for 100 customers celebrated its February opening with an indoor party.
Mask-wearing was scarce, as were efforts to maintain 6 feet of distance from other party-goers. One party-goer had been diagnosed with COVID-19 the day before but had no symptoms. Four more attendees had symptoms of the respiratory virus that included runny nose, but had not yet been diagnosed.
Within a couple of weeks 46 people connected either with the party, or with people who had attended the party had been diagnosed with the disease, including a nursing home resident who was hospitalized, and 12 people with school-aged children in their households, leading to classroom closures affecting 650 students.
All of those numbers likely fall far short of the real consequences, in transmissions at the event and across the community, with some of those affected reluctant to disclose contacts as well as their own activities that may have exposed additional people, authors of a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released today conclude.
Noting that “gatherings in settings where mask wearing and physical do not occur are known to increase the spread of COVID-19,” they urge consideration of community impacts when planning such events, and maximizing precautions that, in addition to masks, distance, ventilation, limiting density, include staying home when sick.