A Washington state choir rehearsal is now considered a “super-spreading event” for coronavirus after 45 attendees fell ill and two died, according to a new report.

The Skagit Valley Chorale held a rehearsal at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church earlier this month — despite reports that the highly contagious bug had started to invade the state, the Los Angeles Times reported.

At the time, no cases had been reported in the county, schools and business remained open and large gatherings had yet to be officially prohibited, according to the report.

In a March 6 email, choir conductor Adam Burdick informed the 121 members that the scheduled rehearsal would proceed amid the “stress and strain of concerns about the virus.”

“I’m planning on being there this Tuesday March 10, and hoping many of you will be, too,” he wrote.

Sixty members showed up for a rehearsal that lasted two-and-a-half hours, according to the LA Times. A greeter offered hand sanitizer at the door.

“It seemed like a normal rehearsal, except that choirs are huggy places,” Burdick told the paper. “We were making music and trying to keep a certain distance between each other.”

Eight singers who spoke to the Times said no one at the rehearsal appeared ill.

But nearly three weeks later, dozens of members started to feel sick. All 28 singers who were tested for the deadly bug were found to be infected, health officials told the paper. Another 17 exhibited symptoms but never got tested, either because the tests were unavailable — or because they believed that only the most severe cases were eligible.

Two singers died of the infection, according to the report.

The youngest to fall ill was 31, but the average age was 67, officials said.

Some members experienced the well-known symptoms of the bug — fever, cough and shortness of breath. Others felt fatigued and achy, and still others had nausea and diarrhea, the Times reported.

Burdick developed a fever of 103, and his wife, Lorraine, got sick too — even though the couple attempted to keep their distance from each other for a week.

The choir outbreak adds weight to the theory that the virus can be transmitted through microscopic aerosols, experts told the paper — even though the World Health Organization has downplayed that possibility.

Jamie Lloyd-Smith, an infectious disease researcher at UCLA, told the paper that members likely expelled viral particles into the air during the rehearsal.

“One could imagine that really trying to project your voice would also project more droplets and aerosols,” Smith said.

Because three-quarters of the members either tested positive or showed symptoms, the choir outbreak can be considered a “super-spreading event,” according to Smith.

Local health specialists said the virus was most likely carried through the air by asymptomatic choir members.

“That’s all we can think of right now,” Polly Dubbel, a county communicable disease and environmental health manager, told the outlet.

“It’s just normal random people doing things that they love to do, and all of a sudden some people are dead,” said member Carolynn Comstock, who became ill along with husband Jim Owen and has since recovered. “It’s very sobering.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *