Sundance Might Have Been Perfect for Spreading the Virus

People who fell ill at film festival suspect they had early cases of COVID-19
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2020 5:37 PM CDT
'Sundance Flu' Might Have Been Something Else This Year
People walk under the marquee of the Egyptian Theatre during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.   (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

People are used to coming down with the "Sundance flu" after partying late into the night and shaking many hands at the Utah film festival. About 120,000 people from all over the world attend, packing restaurants and theaters at a peak time for colds and the flu. But some attendees who became ill after the 10-day event in January wonder if it wasn't the flu that got them this year. They suspect they had COVID-19, per the Hollywood Reporter. "We all had the same symptoms, all had the cough, all had trouble breathing at night," actress Ashley Jackson said. "Some of us got humidifiers and some got oxygen." After returning to Atlanta, Jackson went to emergency rooms and urgent care centers and was told she had the flu, though no test confirmed that. People she knows were sick for three to four weeks. "And then I see all these coronavirus stories, and I was like, 'Whoa.'"

The festival began Jan. 23, two days after the nation's first coronavirus patient was identified in Washington state. "At this point, corona was kind of this internet meme," said another actress who became ill while in Park City. "I didn't think it was a real threat that was anywhere near me." But she woke up Feb. 1 unable to move, barely able to speak and "feeling like I got hit by a truck." Back in Los Angeles, her condition improved, then worsened, and her doctor couldn't understand why a flu-like illness would last into three weeks. Then her symptoms vanished. Other attendees have similar stories, but no confirmed COVID-19 cases in those early days of the outbreak are known. One expert said attendees could well have caught the coronavirus. "With Sundance, you've got the perfect formula for this virus to really go to town and contaminate everybody," he said. A look at Utah data, per the Salt Lake Tribune, couldn't find much evidence of a Sundance spread but called it possible. (Read more Sundance Film Festival stories.)

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