Outbreaks at school district, nursing home linked to ‘superspreader’ wedding

By Kaitlin Knapp

ADAMS CO., Wash. — A wedding with more than 300 people in Adams County has become a “superspreader” event, infecting people in the community who weren’t even there.

More and more cases are being traced back to the wedding, which was held November 7. As of Tuesday, the number was up to 40 cases in Grant County alone.

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The Adams County Health Department said although the wedding was held in Adams County between Moses Lake and Ritzville, related COVID-19 cases are spreading quickly to other counties.

Wedding ceremonies are currently limited to 30 people, but this one — inside a hangar used for potatoes — had more than 300 people in attendance. Health officials say Grant County residents hosted the event.

“It was just a farm location. Kind of out in the middle of nowhere,” described Karen Potts, Adams County Health Department’s community health director. “My understanding is the families involved are from Othello, and there were probably individuals invited from many different counties, at least that’s the information that we received.”

“Well, our first thought is this is exactly the kind of event that we’re trying to prevent from taking place,” said Potts.

As of Tuesday, Grant County has linked 40 COVID cases to the wedding — the original outbreak. Officials have also identified two subsequent outbreaks: one is at a long-term care facility and the other is a school district. The health district said there is a direct link from someone who went to the wedding or a close contact.

“At this point in the investigation, it is premature to state how many cases have resulted from these outbreaks, due to pending testing and case investigations,” the district said in a press release Tuesday evening.

Health officials also said because of the surge in new cases, they’re not able to complete all contact tracing right now.

“This is the kind of thing that really is what they refer to as a super spreader,” said Potts. “You have a lot of people indoors, close together.”

Adams County has reported three cases linked to the wedding so far. Of the 1,185 cases in Adams County, 1,111 came from Othello.

“Right now, Adams County — our number is over 1,000 per 100,000 for 14 days. That’s incredibly high,” Potts explained.

In Grant County, nearly 3,800 have tested positive; 1,449 of those cases are connected to Moses Lake residents.

“And so this sort of event is very frustrating to public health because it increases those numbers. It makes our job a lot harder,” said Potts.

Even though that wedding was held 11 days ago, the Adams County Health Department said anybody who attended should get tested and quarantine for 14 days.

KAPP-KVEW news partner 4 News Now has reached out to the surrounding county health districts to see if any cases have been linked to the wedding.

The Benton-Franklin Health District and Spokane Regional Health have no cases linked to the wedding at this time.

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When asked if someone can be fined for having the wedding, Potts said it can be reported to the Department of Labor and Industries and she believes fines can be imposed on the people who own the building.

Medical Teams International will be offering free testing in Grant and Adams Counties. The locations are below:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 18: Wahluke High School, 1-7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 19: Othello Church of the Nazarene, 1-7 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 20: Othello Church of the Nazarene, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

ORIGINAL STORY: COVID-19 outbreak stemming from 300+ person wedding near Ritzville