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Coronavirus 'super-spreader' wedding near Ritzville linked to 2 outbreaks

Nearly 40 COVID-19 cases have been associated with the wedding as of Tuesday, Nov. 17, with health experts expecting more to be added daily.

ADAMS COUNTY, Wash. — Dozens out of more than 300 people who attended a wedding near Ritzville on Nov. 7 have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Grant County Health District.

Nearly 40 COVID-19 cases spanning at least two Washington counties are associated with the event as of Tuesday, Nov. 17 and health district leaders said they expect more to be added daily. 

The event was held at a private location in a rural area about 20 miles west of Ritzville. 

A wedding invite for the event was still posted online earlier on Tuesday morning. It has since been deleted. The invite encouraged attendees to "grab a drink" and help the couple celebrate.

Attendees diagnosed with COVID-19 have also been linked to two subsequent outbreaks. The health district said it is working with a long-term care facility and a school district because of direct links through wedding attendance or secondary cases due to contact with those at the wedding. 

The health district also said it is too early to tell how many cases in total will be linked to the wedding.

In a press release, GCHD urged attendees to get tested for COVID-19 after several people tested positive. Anyone who attended the wedding is being asked to self-quarantine through Saturday, Nov. 21.

At least three cases of coronavirus in Adams County have been linked to the event. Health experts there say they believe the wedding was attended by families from Othello and other areas. 

GCHD said the decision to notify the public was because of the multi-jurisdictional impact of the event. The health district said they are trying to notify attendees about possible exposure, but with more than 300 people in attendance, local health jurisdictions are unlikely to reach all of them.

Wedding is a "super-spreader event"

"Our first thought is this is exactly the kind of event we're trying to prevent from taking place," said Adams County Community Health Director Karen Potts. "It's the kind of thing that really is what they refer to as a 'super-spreader.'"

RELATED: There have been 2 COVID-19 super-spreader events in Spokane so far

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that super-spreader events “are associated with both explosive growth early in an outbreak and sustained transmission in later stages.’’

Potts also expressed concern about hospitals reaching capacity in a rural area as COVID-19 cases rise. 

Labor and Industries could fine wedding venue

Wedding ceremonies in Washington are limited to a total of no more than 30 people and, beginning Monday, Nov. 16, indoor receptions or similar gatherings in conjunction with the ceremony are prohibited.

It's not clear if the wedding couple or hosts could face any penalties. The health department said Labor and Industries could fine the owners of the building where it happened.

Similar events in other states have also led to COVID-19 outbreaks.

According to a report from CBS, an October wedding and birthday party of a similar size in Long Island resulted in at least 56 people testing positive for coronavirus. 

GCHD recommends quarantining for 14 days and getting tested for coronavirus five to seven days after attending a large event. A statewide travel advisory also recommends a 14-day quarantine to anyone traveling out of state when they arrive back in Washington and to seek testing if symptoms develop.    

As of Nov. 12, there have been 3,859 COVID-19 cases in Grant County and 311 cases in the past two weeks. 

As of Nov. 7, there have been 1,008 COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths in Adams County.

There is also free coronavirus testing in both Adams and Grant Counties this week. 

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