CHICAGO — An event at a rural Illinois bar in February led to an outbreak of 46 cases of COVID-19, a school closure and the hospitalization of a long-term care facility resident, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Monday.

The indoor event led to cases in 26 patrons, three staff members and 17 other people who did not attend but caught COVID-19 from others linked to the event. A school with 650 children had to close because of the outbreak, the CDC said.

Attendees included a person who had no symptoms but had received a COVID-19 diagnosis the day before, as well as four people who had symptoms but had not yet been diagnosed with COVID-19.

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The report does not name the bar or its location. The Illinois Department of Public Health and the local health department investigated.

The outbreak shows the challenges of reopening businesses even as growing numbers of people get vaccinated, the report said.

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“These findings demonstrate that opening up settings such as bars, where mask wearing and physical distancing are challenging, can increase the risk for community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” the report said.

The report said businesses reopening should use a number of strategies to prevent virus transmission, including enforcement of masking, maintaining 6 feet of physical distancing between people, reducing indoor occupancy, prioritizing outdoor seating, improving building ventilation and staying home when ill.

The report comes as Chicago-area health officials warn previous COVID-19 restrictions could soon return as cases and positivity rates rise. Suburban Cook County might again see an indoor dining ban or the capacity limit curtailed, Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said Saturday.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last Wednesday she won’t call for any more significant reopening plans until the numbers subside.

At the event in rural Illinois, people were not consistently wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart, even though tables were spaced and signs were posted encouraging physical distancing and mask use, according to the report. Most people who attended and then got COVID-19 were white men between the ages of 18 and 44.

One of the people who attended and later tested positive had received a vaccination before the event. None of the other people who caught COVID-19 had been vaccinated.

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One person who attended reported a runny nose two days afterward and came into close contact with 26 people at school during an indoor sports practice and in-person school instruction. Two student athletes who had been in contact with the person then tested positive. The school district closed for two weeks beginning Feb. 18 because 13 staff members were isolating or absent because their own child was quarantined.

Another person who attended the event and tested positive was a certified nursing assistant at a long-term care facility. Two residents and a facility staff member who had been in close contact with that person then tested positive. None of the four people in the long-term care facility who got COVID-19 had been vaccinated, despite having been offered vaccines earlier.

“These findings show that SARS-CoV 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.

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(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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