Illinois bar event caused 46 COVID-19 cases, school closure


A 3-D rendering of the coronavirus (Getty Images).

CHICAGO (AP) — An indoor event at a bar in rural Illinois triggered 46 cases of COVID-19, the hospitalization of a resident of a long-term care facility and a school shutdown, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Monday.

Attendees of the bar opening event in February reported “inconsistent” mask wearing and lax physical distancing. In the end, those who tested positive for COVID-19 included three bar staff members, 26 patrons and 17 others who were infected by those who went to the bar. A 650-student school had to shut down because so many people were in quarantine, according to the CDC.

The findings show that “transmission originating in a business such as a bar not only affects the patrons and employees of the bar but can also affect an entire community,” the report said.

For example, one bar patron who reported a runny nose two days after the event had close contact with 26 people during in-person classes and indoor sports practice at school. Within days, two student athletes tested positive for COVID-19. The school closed for two weeks starting Feb. 18 because 13 school employees were in isolation, quarantine or had a child who was quarantined.

The report didn’t name the establishment or the local health department that investigated the infections, but the Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed Monday that the outbreak occurred in Douglas County, which has a population of less than 20,000 people. A citation in the CDC report noted that several authors work for the Douglas County Health Department.

A spokeswoman from the department, based in Tuscola, about 160 miles from Chicago, didn’t immediately have comment Monday. Past outbreaks in Tuscola have been linked to large gatherings.

Illinois health officials on Monday reported 2,102 additional confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths. Overall, Illinois has logged more than 1.2 million cases and 21,384 COVID-19 deaths.

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