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Man infects at least 32 people with coronavirus in 2.5 hours

Man infects at least 32 people with coronavirus in 2.5 hours

A man unknowingly infected at least 32 people with coronavirus at a choir practice, a new report by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found.

The choir practice was held in Skagit Valley, Washington, on March 10 – three days before President Donald Trump declared national emergency over the COVID-19 outbreak.

Out of the 122 members of the Skagit Valley Chorale, 61 attended the evening practice at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church.

One of those singers had cold-like symptoms starting on March 7 but only realised it was COVID-19 after a test later confirmed the diagnosis, according to the CDC study.

The members avoided direct physical contact such as hugs and handshakes. “It seemed like a normal rehearsal, except that choirs are huggy places,” conductor Adam Burdick told the Los Angeles Times. “We were making music and trying to keep a certain distance between each other.”

The practice lasted 2.5 hours. Most members sat in their usual rehearsal seats. Once seated, they practiced singing for 40 minutes before splitting into two smaller groups for a 50-minute block. After a 15-minute break, during which some members shared cookies and oranges, they all reconvened for a final 45-minute practice session.

“During the entire rehearsal, no one sneezed, no one coughed, no one there appeared to be sick in any way,” member Carolynn Comstock told KIRO.

Within days, people began showing COVID-19 symptoms. In less than two weeks, 32 people tested positive for COVID-19 and another 20 were considered to have probable infections. Three were hospitalised, and two of them died.

The CDC said people with symptoms should isolate or self-quarantine to prevent further spread of the disease.

“The potential for superspreader events underscores the importance of physical distancing, including avoiding gathering in large groups, to control spread of COVID-19,” the agency said in the report.