Washington State Wedding May Cause Fatal Outbreak in 2 Long-Term Care Institutions: Officials


Officials said more than 300 people attended the November wedding.

The Washington state wedding, called a “scattering” event, could have caused fatal COVID-19 epidemics in two long-term care facilities, officials said Friday.

According to data from the Grant County Health District, staff from the county’s two long-term care facilities who attended the wedding subsequently showed a positive result for COVID-19. They worked while they were contagious, but before they knew they were sick, officials said Friday, although it is unclear how many cases can be traced back to participants.

“Every resident cares, so you can’t know which cases are tied to staff,” Theresa Adkinson, Grant County Health District administrator, told ABC News in an email.

The department plans to “analyze the epidemics more deeply” as COVID-19 surge is better controlled, Adkinson said.

A total of 54 COVID-19 deaths occurred in the county – double what was reported on 5 November. Of these, 29 are in the health district according to long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and adult homes. As of Friday, there are also 13 COVID-19 suspected deaths in the county, including nine linked to long-term care facilities.

On Thursday, when the county reported the current number of deaths, the health district called on residents to stay home.

“Our most vulnerable community members – the elderly, immunocompromised and chronically ill – are at particular risk of complications from COVID-19 infection and we need to continue to take measures to protect them from this disease,” the health district said in a statement. “The best way to do this is to stay home as much as possible. If you choose to get together with people outside your household, it could lead to more COVID-19 cases and even death. Please protect those you love by staying home.”

Long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks, given their congregation and the elderly population. As of November 30, long-term care facilities were associated with 53% of all COVID-19 deaths in Washington, but only 6% of cases, the state health department reported.

Large indoor gatherings also pose a high risk for COVID-19 transmission and could be “super-spreading events,” the Center for Disease Prevention and Control said in a November report. “Such events are accompanied by explosive growth followed by sustained transmission.”

The August wedding in rural Maine was linked to 177 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths, including six in long-term care facilities, the CDC said.

The wedding in Ritzville was also a “super-disseminating” event, Karen Potts, director of community health at the Adams County Department of Health, told reporters last month. “There are a lot of people inside, close together.”

At the time of the Ritzville event, wedding ceremonies in the state were limited to 30 people.

Under the latest state ordinance issued by Washington when the “third wave” of the virus is experienced, weddings are prohibited indoors and social gatherings with guests from outside the household are prohibited unless guests are quarantined.

What you need to know about the coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: The coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Symptoms of coronavirus
  • Prevalence tracking in the United States and worldwide: Coronavirus map
  • Tune in to ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live every weekday at 4 p.m. to report on the new corona virus separately from the entire ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.