CLEVELAND, Ohio – Just days before Easter and on the start of Passover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report detailing the risks of spreading the coronavirus by gathering in groups, including in religious settings.
The report released Wednesday cites a Chicago man linked to the infection of 15 other people, three of whom died, and concludes that people should follow social-distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders, even if that means not attending or holding family gatherings.
The CDC has classified people such as the Chicago man, identified in the report as “A1.1,” as “super-spreaders,” since they transmit infection to several people who don’t live in their household and experience mild symptoms, so they don’t seek medical care. Patient “A1.1” was only tested for coronavirus as part of the CDC’s epidemiology study.
In February, the Chicago man attended the funeral of a friend after having recently traveled out of state and while experiencing mild respiratory symptoms, according to the report. He later tested positive for COVID-19.
The night before the funeral, the man went to the bereaved family’s home and shared a takeout meal with two family members, and they ate from the same serving dishes. At both the three-hour dinner and the two-hour funeral, which included a “potluck-style” meal, the man reported embracing family members of the deceased to express condolences.
The two family members from the dinner and funeral developed coronavirus symptoms within two to four days after the funeral, and another funeral attendee developed symptoms six days later. Two of those patients recovered at home, but one required endotracheal intubation and a ventilator, and died about a month later.
Within the next two weeks, another family member who had close contact with “A1.1” at the funeral, visited one of the patients in the hospital. They embraced while wearing no personal protective equipment. The visitor developed symptoms, including a fever and cough, within three days.
Three days after the funeral, “A1.1” was still experiencing mild symptoms and attended a birthday party attended by nine family members. He embraced everyone there and shared food during the three-hour party. Seven attendees developed COVID-19 symptoms within three to seven days, and two people were hospitalized, required intubation and a ventilator, and died.
Only two people who attended the party did not develop symptoms within two weeks.
One of the patients who later died was cared for by a family member and a home-care professional, both of whom are considered “presumptive positive” coronavirus cases, since they were not able to be confirmed due to limited testing.
Three symptomatic birthday party attendees attended church six days after they started developing coronavirus symptoms. They infected a church attendee, who is a health-care worker, through close contact, including talking, sitting within one row for the 90-minute service and passing the offering plate.
In total, due to three events over the course of about three weeks, one person with COVID-19 likely spread it to 15 other people, including three who died. The patients ranged in age from 5 to 86, and all three who died were older than 60 and had at least one preexisting cardiovascular or respiratory condition.
“In this cluster, extended family gatherings (a birthday party, funeral and church attendance), all of which occurred before major social distancing policies were implemented, might have facilitated transmissions of SARS-CoV-2 beyond household contacts into the broader community,” the CDC report reads. “These findings support CDC recommendations to avoid gatherings and reinforce the executive order from the governor of Illinois prohibiting all public and private gatherings of any number of persons occurring outside a single household.”
The report references other similar events across the country, including two funerals in a small Georgia town that have been linked to more than two dozen coronavirus cases, according to The New York Times.