61 Singers Went to Choir Practice. 87% Caught the Virus

Report out of Wash. state documents alarming 'superspreader event' that sickened 52
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2020 10:10 AM CDT
61 Singers Went to Choir Practice. 87% Caught the Virus
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Highwaystarz-Photography)

It's a good thing only half of the Skagit Valley Chorale's 122 members showed up at their March 10 practice—because one of the singers had the coronavirus and managed to spread it to 87% of those in attendance. A new report on this "superspreader event" by Skagit County Public Health, published by the CDC on Tuesday, says that 61 choir members attended that particular 2.5-hour practice in Mount Vernon, Wash. "One individual present felt ill, not knowing what they had, and ended up infecting 52 other people," lead author Lea Hamner notes, per Fox News. Of those sickened, most were women with a median age of 69; three were hospitalized, and two died. The AP notes that the virus is believed to mainly spread when someone coughs or sneezes, releasing droplets into the air, and the choir practice "provided several opportunities" for this transmission.

Those opportunities included "members sitting close to one another, sharing snacks, and stacking chairs at the end of the practice." The report notes that chairs were placed 6 inches to 10 inches apart, "with a center aisle dividing left and right stages." The larger group also split up at one point, with one group moving to a smaller room. Anyone with an especially strong voice may have also become a "superemitter" and exacerbated things. "The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization," the authors write in the report. So what does this isolated incident mean for the bigger picture? "The potential for superspreader events underscores the importance of physical distancing, including avoiding gathering in large groups, to control spread of COVID-19," the report notes. (Read more Washington state stories.)

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