2 Washington Choir Members Died and 45 Sickened After Group Rehearsal amid Coronavirus Spread

A choir in Washington state has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus, after deciding to follow through with a scheduled rehearsal earlier this month.

Although the virus had already started to spread in Seattle, Skagit Valley Chorale conductor Adam Burdick sent an email message to all 121 members of the choir on March 6, informing them that their upcoming practice would not be canceled, according to The Los Angeles Times. At the time, there had been no reported cases of the virus in Skagit County, nor had any orders banning large gatherings been issued.

“I’m planning on being here this Tuesday March 10, and hoping many of you will, too,” he wrote in the message, according to the Times.

A total of 60 members attended the rehearsal, and three weeks later, 45 of them had either tested positive for the virus or were experiencing symptoms typically associated with it, the outlet reported. Additionally, at least three choir members had been hospitalized and two had died.

A statewide stay-at-home order was announced by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on March 23.

Local health officials believe it is likely that the highly contagious virus, which can live on surfaces for 24-72 hours, spread through the air.

“That’s all we can think of right now,” county communicable disease and environmental health manager Polly Dubbel told the Times. “We think it was just a really super-unfortunate, high-risk occurrence.”

Eight attendees also told the Times that none of the choir members appeared to be ill during the rehearsal, nor was anybody coughing or sneezing.

According to the health department, the youngest choir member affected was 31, although the average age was 67, the outlet reported. The two members who died were in their 80s.

“It’s just normal random people doing things that they love to do, and all of a sudden some people are dead,” said Carolynn Comstock, one of 17 choir members who did not get tested for the virus, despite experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, including fever and loss of smell.

“It’s very sobering,” she added.

As of Monday, there have been at least 4,896 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state since the virus outbreak began, the seventh-most nationwide, and 207 deaths, according to a The New York Times database. In Skagit County, there have been 101 confirmed cases and 3 deaths.

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