About 40 cases of COVID-19 and two subsequent coronavirus outbreaks are the legacy of a wedding at a private venue near Ritzville that drew more than 300 attendees, according to health officials in Grant and Adams counties.
On Tuesday, officials said the tally was nearing 40 in Grant County and was at four and counting in Adams.
“This is the perfect example of what we don’t want to see,” said Karen Potts, community director of the Adams County Health Department.
Potts said the Nov. 7 wedding was held indoors in a large agricultural building in unincorporated Adams County. Attendees described it as a typical reception, maybe five to six hours long, with food, beverages and dancing, she said.
Masks were available for those who wanted them, she said, but not all did.
Wedding ceremonies had been capped at no more than 30 people when the wedding was held. Starting this week, indoor wedding receptions of any size are banned in Washington.
Because it drew guests from around and beyond the region, Grant County health officials posted on Facebook asking people who attended to get tested and self-quarantine through Saturday, Nov. 21.
Health officials said they posted the information publicly because with “more than 300 people attending the wedding from many communities, local health jurisdictions are unlikely to reach them all.”
With coronavirus cases surging in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday ordered restaurants and bars to shut down indoor service and to limit outdoor service to parties of five or fewer. Indoor gyms and fitness centers must also shut down. Same with movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums. Indoor gatherings with people outside your household will be prohibited unless participants have quarantined for at least 14 days or quarantined for at least a week and test negative.
“Today, Sunday, November 15, 2020, is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee said. “A pandemic is raging in our state. Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues; and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-COVID conditions.”
The new regulations will be in place for at least four weeks, Inslee said, adding, “We would hope we have progress and that would be the limit of these restrictions.”
Grant County health officials are urging wedding organizers in any county to keep a log of attendees and retain that log for at least two weeks in case an outbreak occurs.
“Our personal decisions affect the health of our family, friends, and communities,” the Grant County Health District said, urging everyone who attended the wedding to get tested for the virus.
This is not the first time a wedding has turned into a super-spreader event. An August wedding in rural Maine led to more than 170 coronavirus cases and seven deaths. At a Long Island country club, an October wedding with 91 guests left more than half infected and sent nearly 300 into quarantine.