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How coronavirus spread through a birthday and a funeral in Chicago

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The spread of coronavirus in Chicago is showcased in a new CDC report that tracks just how rampant the disease can be.

It studies a patient, identified as A1.1, as he or she attends two gatherings – a funeral for a close family friend and a birthday for a family member in February. Through those interactions, A1.1 infected 16 people, which led to three deaths.

Timeline of events and symptom onsets, by day of investigation, in a cluster of COVID-19 likely transmitted at two family gatherings — Chicago, Illinois, February–March 2020
(CDC)

Prior to the gatherings, A1.1 experienced mild respiratory symptoms, but attended the gatherings anyway. Later, the patient would test positive for coronavirus as part of an “epidemiologic investigation.”

The CDC released the study to show the clear benefits of social distancing in combating the spread of coronavirus.

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Prior to the funeral, A1.1 met with family of the deceased and shared a meal with them. Both at the meal and the funeral, A1.1 shared food with others, and engaged in hugging and handshaking.

Three days after the funeral, A1.1 attended a birthday party despite lingering respiratory symptoms. Seven of the nine attendees at the party ended up infected with COVID-19.

FIGURE 2. Likely incubation periods for confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 following transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at two family gatherings (N = 15)* — Chicago, Illinois, February–March 2020

FIGURE 2. Likely incubation periods for confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 following transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at two family gatherings (N = 15)* — Chicago, Illinois, February–March 2020
(CDC)

The study also discussed the median time for symptoms to develop in subsequent patients (four days), and the time for the virus to spread (three weeks).

The CDC states, “These data illustrate the importance of social distancing for preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, even within families. 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 transmission of SARS-CoV-2 beyond household contacts into the broader community.”

CHICAGO JAIL BECOMES TOP CORONAVIRUS HOTSPOT, EXCEEDING CASES ABOARD USS ROOSEVELT

However, the study does note three limitations it faced: the lack of laboratory setting; phylogenetic data, which could confirm presumed epidemiologic linkages, were unavailable; and, finally, the possibility that more cases existed than the study was able to identify.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 was alarming in the Cook County Jail, where 238 inmates and 115 staff members were infected by the virus. Despite the numbers showing the jail to be a more serious hotspot for infection than the USS Roosevelt or the New Rochelle containment zone, not all of the jail’s 4,500 inmates have been tested.

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As of today, Illinois has 16,422 confirmed cases, and 528 deaths from the coronavirus. Illinois is now the eighth-most infected state in the country.

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