What does a superspreading event look like? Does it look like a Trump rally with a thousand maskless attendees in Georgia? A Black Lives Matter demo with tens of thousands of masked protesters in Washington D.C.? What about a simple wedding reception?

First published in November 2020.

Between 7 August and 14 September 2020, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (MeCDC) investigated a COVID-19 outbreak linked to a wedding reception that had been attended by 55 people in a rural Maine town. Investigation later revealed noncompliance with CDC’s recommended mitigation measures (avoid large gatherings, practice physical distancing, wear masks, stay home when ill, and self-quarantine after exposure to a person with confirmed infection).

Indeed, the 55 guests (which exceeded Maine’s 50-person limit for indoor gathering in a shared space) were seated indoors, did not maintain physical distancing and did not wear any masks, although signs posted at the entrance instructed visitors to wear masks. Staff members, who were wearing masks, did not enforce these measures.

The CDC notes that “in addition to the community outbreak, secondary and tertiary transmission led to outbreaks at a long-term care facility located 100 miles away and at a correctional facility approximately 200 miles away.

MeCDC investigators had to link cases to the event by backward-tracing since wedding guests’ contact information had not been provided by the facility (people with confirmed or probable COVID-19 were interviewed to know whether they had attended the event or were a contact of a confirmed case from the wedding).

Confirmed infection was identified in 27 of 55 wedding guests. Three other cases occurred in a staff member at the venue, a vendor, and a patron dining at the venue who was not a wedding guest.

One guest with COVID-19 attended an in-person school meeting the same day. Two school staff members tested positive. 27 people were later confirmed positive within the community.

After the reception, one of the guests also had a close interaction with a health care worker at a long-term care facility who reported fever, chills, cough, myalgia, runny nose, and headache, but nevertheless went to work.

After universal testing of all residents and staff members, 38 additional people were confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases. 14 of 76 staff members and 24 of 44 residents. Three residents were hospitalized, and six died.

One wedding guest was working daily 8-hour shifts in two separate correctional facility housing units while symptomatic. That led to 18 staff members, 48 incarcerated people, and 16 household contacts of staff testing positive. A total of 82 cases (The facility had not implemented daily symptom screening for staff members or enforced regular use of masks after the first case was identified).

Multiple COVID-19 outbreaks linked to a wedding reception in rural Maine. | CDC

A wedding reception in a small rural town was the likely source of COVID-19 outbreaks in the local community, a care home, and a correctional facility, leading to 177 cases, seven hospitalisations, and seven deaths. The CDC explains that it highlights “the importance of adhering to recommended mitigation measures even in communities where transmission rates are low.”

Note: None of the people who were hospitalised or died had attended the event.🔷

PMP News reporting.

[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 12 November 2020. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Pxfuel.)

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