Extended family gatherings likely helped spread COVID-19 in Chicago, according to researchers.
COVID-19, a new disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, or SARS-CoV-2, has been found in over 6,000 Chicago residents, killing 177, most of whom had underlying chronic conditions.
Federal researchers probing cases in the city found a cluster of 16 confirmed or probable cases, including three deaths, that likely resulted from one event.
“Extended family gatherings including a funeral and a birthday party likely facilitated transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in this cluster,” the researchers with the Centers Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote in a report published this week.
The funeral was held in February for a deceased person who died from a cause other than COVID-19. A close friend of the bereaved family attended the funeral. That person had recently traveled outside Illinois and was experiencing mild respiratory symptoms. He later tested positive for COVID-19.
The evening before the funeral, the patient shared a takeout meal, eaten from common serving dishes, with two relatives of the person who died. The funeral also included a “potluck-style” meal.
Researchers also found that the patient embraced some of the relatives at the funeral.
Two relatives who shared a meal with the patient subsequently developed confirmed cases of the CCP virus while two other relatives who embraced the patient later developed probable symptoms, which is similar to the flu. One of the four died.
The man, still experiencing mild symptoms, attended a birthday party attended by nine of his relatives three days after the funeral. The patient came into close contact, defined as within six feet, with all of the relatives, and they shared food.
Seven of the people at the party later developed confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, all between three and seven days after the event. Two of them died after being placed on ventilators.
Two people who provided care for one of those two patients—a family member and a home care professional—without using personal protective equipment like gloves also developed probable COVID-19.
The chain of transmission appeared to continue with three of the people who attended the birthday party went to church six days after developing symptoms. A church attendee contracted COVID-19 following close contact with the trio, including direct conversations and sitting within one row of them for 90 minutes.
The investigation illustrates “the importance of social distancing for preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, even within families,” the CDC researchers said.
The agency last month (pdf) recommended the cancellation of large gatherings and, if community transmission of the CCP virus was substantial in a certain area, the cancellation of all community and faith-based gatherings.
Transmission of the new virus is believed to primarily happen between people in close contact through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. U.S. officials said last week that as many as one in four patients will never show symptoms and they can transmit the virus, along with presymptomatic patients, or those who do ultimately show symptoms.
Symptoms are estimated to appear between 2-14 days after contracting the CCP virus. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, aches and pains, and shortness of breath.