How do you get many of your friends and family members sick and even kill a few slowly and painfully? Simply by showing up at a funeral, church or a party. That is, if you have been infected by a highly infectious and potentially deadly virus.
Of course, you don’t know you’re infected. Though it’s increasingly less possible that this could be true, you may not even know much about the novel coronavirus or the disease it causes, COVID-19. But that doesn’t matter. Your friends, your family and loved ones will get just as sick. Some of them will end up just as dead. And you yourself may never feel anything worse than a sniffly cold.
That is the story told by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a new report, “Community Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at Two Family Gatherings — Chicago, Illinois, February–March 广西快3走势图.” Community transmission is the passage of a communicable disease from person to person in the community, usually unknowingly. SARS-CoV-2 is the more technical proper name for the novel coronavirus. The two family gatherings were a funeral and a birthday party.
The result: 16 sick people, ages 5 to 86 years – who also went on to make even more people sick – and three more funerals.
The terrifying thing that everyone must grasp who has not yet grasped it is that this chain of disease and death started by someone innocently doing things that everyone does – and would like to go back to doing if they have been following public health officials’ directions to stay at 广西快3走势图 and distance themselves.
It started by someone traveling out of state, where he likely was infected. Though he “was experiencing mild respiratory symptoms,” the CDC reported, “he was only tested later” as part of the investigation that traced this trail of disease.
When he got 广西快3走势图 to Chicago in February, with family he “shared a takeout meal, eaten from common serving dishes.” The next day, he went to a funeral, where he “shared a ‘potluck-style’ meal” and hugged people “to express condolences.” He infected four of them. One of them later died.
There were 34 homicides in Chicago this February, where presumably the killer meant to kill the victim and did so fairly swiftly. This COVID-19 death was as slow as it was unintentional. The person who had a meal with a friend and hugged him at a funeral was hospitalized 11 days later, required endotracheal intubation (that is, a tube down the windpipe) and mechanical ventilation for acute respiratory failure, and died after another 17 days of fever and labored breathing.
Before anyone infected at the funeral got sick, just three days after the funeral, the man who had traveled and was unknowingly infected attended a birthday party. Though he “was still experiencing mild respiratory symptoms,” the CDC reported, it was February in Chicago; a lot of people with chest colds socialize in the winter (or used to).
This birthday party was attended by nine other family members, and he hugged them all and they all “shared food at the three-hour party,” the CDC reported. Seven of them got sick. Two of them died – slowly, in the hospital with mechanical ventilation and a tube down the windpipe.
The contagion continued to sprawl. Three people who got infected at the birthday party attended church six days after developing their first symptoms. At church, they infected more people, including a health care professional, whose point of contact, the CDC reported, was “passing the offering plate.”
Sharing a meal, going to a funeral, hugging people, going to a birthday party, hugging people, going to church, passing the offering plate – it’s difficult to accept these as dangerous, even life-threatening acts, but as long as there is community spread of COVID-19, these are dangerous, even life-threatening acts.
The CDC placed no blame on the individuals studied. The report states quite clearly that this all “occurred before major social distancing policies were implemented.”
To put these family events on a timeline, Chicago reported its first COVID-19 case on January 24, only the second infection detected in the United States. Like the first in the Seattle area less than a week earlier, the infected person had returned from Wuhan, China广西快3走势图. Her husband was the state’s second reported case on January 30.
On February 11, Illinois became the first state to start testing for the virus.
The next cases, another couple, were not reported until March 2. That was after the man in this CDC report had returned from his travels and attended the funeral. The Illinois Department of Public Health advisory on March 2 stated that “the risk to the general public remains low.” Though the CDC does not provide precise dates, since the birthday party in March fell three days after the funeral in February, all of these acts of innocent family fellowship happened when public health authorities were reassuring the public, not sounding any alarms.
That would all be over by March 11, when the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. The Illinois Department of Public Health was reporting 25 cases then, and its Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike stated, “We are seeing growing transmission of the virus in the community.”
By March 15, when Illinois was still reporting only 93 cases and no COVID-19 deaths, Dr. Ezike issued a guidance that should be issued nationwide by now: “At this point, it is best to assume that the coronavirus is circulating in your community and you should take the same precautions when interacting with other people that you would when interacting with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This may seem like an extreme step, but this is how we reduce the number of new cases and prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.”
As this CDC report makes tragically clear, this assumption must include extended families, and these precautions must include avoiding sharing the most basic pleasures (food, parties), solace (church), and sorrows (funerals). That is, unless the goal is to have more family funerals.