Coronavirus: Dozens get sick, 2 die after choir rehearsal in Washington

Skagit Valley Chorale
Skagit Valley Chorale

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (KCPQ) — Dozens of choir members became ill after a rehearsal earlier this month in Mount Vernon.

According to Skagit County Public Health, 60 members of Skagit Valley Chorale met up on March 10. Within several days, 45 members became ill, 28 tested positive for COVID-19, and 17 members did not get tested but had consistent symptoms. Two people in their 80s died.

Carolynn Comstock and Jim Owen from Anacortes attended the rehearsal and say they felt symptoms 3-5 days later.

“On Friday, I started to feel cold, chills in the afternoon. I got a sweater and it didn’t help so I took my temperature. It was 99.3 degrees,” said Comstock.

She also said she lost her sense of smell and taste. Her husband Owen felt different symptoms.

“I felt something different. I felt achy and fatigued as if I was coming down with something, but there was no cough and my temperature was below normal,” said Owen.

There were no restrictions on gatherings in Skagit County at the time of the choir practice. Members also took all precautions. Only members who didn’t feel sick attended, they sat apart from each other, they brought their own choir sheets, did not hug or shake hands, and had hand sanitizer available.

“To get three-quarters of a group who met for 2 hours, positive for COVID-19- it’s quite an impressive transmission,” said Dr. Howard Leibrand with Skagit Public Health.

Dr. Leibrand says many people with the illness are asymptomatic and are unknowingly spreading the virus, which is why he continues to urge everyone to stay at home and practice social distancing. He also says singing may have played a role in the spread at the rehearsal.

“I think singing with a wide-open mouth and projection of your voice can certainly cause droplet spread of the illness. We know that two people face to face in conversation can contaminate each other,” said Dr. Leibrand.

Comstock and Owen say they want to help others once they recover.

“We want to be a part of the solution, whether delivering meals and checking up on people,” said Owen.

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