Nearly 40 out of the 300 people who attended a wedding ceremony in Ritzville, Washington, on November 7 have contracted COVID-19, health officials in Grant County said. The event was a private ceremony held at a rural community about 20 miles west of Ritzville, NY Post reports.
According to the Grant County District, dozens of individuals that came down with the virus across two Washington counties were part of this wedding ceremony that has since been tagged a superspreader event. Officials said they expected more people to turn out positive in the coming days.
The health district maintained that it still too early to estimate the total number of positive cases that would be linked to the event. The health district released a press statement urging everyone who was part of the ceremony to get tested immediately and self-isolate as they await test results.
Three cases of the coronavirus in Adam County were linked to this event. Health officials said families from Othello and other areas must have been part of this event.
The Grant County Health District said it was forced to make the public announcement due to the chain reaction the spread by attendees from the event could achieve across multiple counties in the state. The county announced that it had tried to reach the more than 300 people in attendance, but not everyone could be accessed.
Adam County Community Health Director Karen Potter said this was the sort of event that health officials have been trying to dissuade residents from attending since the pandemic started. She concluded that the wedding ceremony was a typical case study for a superspreader event due to the unusually high number of attendees that have since come down with the virus.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that superspreader events have the potential to cause a geometrical increase of infections during the early stages of a disease outbreak while also sustaining transmission in the later stages.
Potts said she was concerned that hospitals in the rural areas would surpass their capacities should case of the coronavirus increase. It is unclear how the wedding planners or organizers obtained permission to hold such an event since wedding ceremonies in Washington are restricted to just 30 persons. The state had, on November 16, prohibited indoor receptions or similar gatherings.
It remains to be seen if the wedding couples would be sanctioned, but officials from the health department said owners of the building where the event happened would be appropriately penalized.
There are documented cases in other states whereby superspreader events led to a surge in the number of coronavirus cases in such states. There was a report by CBS in October that after a wedding and birthday party in Long Island, which had the same number of attendees as the Washington wedding event, saw 56 people coming down with the coronavirus disease.
Grant County Health District recommends that individuals who attend a large event should self-isolate for 14 days and get tested for the coronavirus between 5-7 days after such an event. There’s also a state-wide travel advisory in place in Washington, which requires all residents who traveled outside the state to self-isolate for 14 days when they return.
As of November 12, Grant County had a total number of 3,589 coronavirus cases, while Adam County reported 1,008 coronavirus cases as of November 7.