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The choir has decided to rehearse. Currently, dozens of members have COVID-19 and two have died. Nationwide

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Mount Vernon, WA—In early March, with the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Washington, Skagit Valley Choral leaders discussed whether to continue weekly rehearsals.

The virus has already killed people in the Seattle area, about an hour’s drive south.

However, Skagit County did not report the case, schools and businesses remained open, and a ban on large-scale rallies had not yet been announced.

On March 6, the choir conductor Adam Burdick will be practicing as scheduled in the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church in a “Tension of Virus Stress and Concern” by e-mail to 121 members. I told you.

“I’m planning to be there this Tuesday, Tuesday, March 10, and hope many of you will do so,” he wrote.

60 singers have appeared. The greeter provided a hand sanitizer at the door, and members refrained from a normal hug and handshake.

“It looked like a regular rehearsal, except that the choir was a rough place,” recalls Birdick. “We made music and tried to keep a certain distance from each other.”

Two and a half hours later, the singers left at 9 pm.

Nearly three weeks later, 45 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have worse symptoms, and at least three have been hospitalized and two have died.

The outbreak surprised county health officials and concluded that the virus was almost asymptomatic and transmitted via air from one or more people.

“That’s all we can think of now,” said Polly Davel, a county’s infectious disease and environmental health manager.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, eight people at the rehearsal stated that no one coughed, sneezed, or became ill.

Everyone brought their music and avoided direct physical contact. Some members helped install or remove folding chairs. A few people helped out the oranges that were on the table behind.

According to experts, the occurrence of chorus is associated with increasing evidence that viruses can be transmitted through aerosols (aerosols in which particles smaller than 5 micrometers can float in the air for more than a few minutes). I do.

The World Health Organization downplays the potential for aerosol transmission, and via a much larger “ respiratory droplet ” released when the virus infected person coughs and sneezes and immediately falls to the surface I emphasized the spread.

However, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17 found that when the virus was suspended in a mist under laboratory conditions, it remained “ viable and infectious ” for 3 hours. It turned out. 30 minutes in real situation.

One of the authors of the study, Jamie Lloyd Smith, an infectious disease researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles, could have a strong respiratory effect singing virus particles dispersed in widely inhaled church rooms It is said that there is.

“You can imagine that if you actually try to fire your voice, more droplets and aerosols will be fired,” he said.

He said the outbreak was considered a “super-wide event” because three-quarters of the choir members were virus-positive or showing symptoms of infection.

Lindsey Mahr, an environmental engineer at the Virginia Tech and an expert in the aerial transmission of viruses, says that some people can spit out fines and produce 1000 times more than others. Was.

Mahr said the chorus outbreak should be seen as a strong warning to the general public.

“This may help people notice, hey, we really need to be careful,” she said.

Skagit Valley Choral will gather members from all over northwestern Washington and sell winter and spring concerts at the 650-seat McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon.

Amateur singers interested in choral music tend to get older, but the group includes some young people. Last year, Bardick put hip-hop into one number.

The next big performance on the group’s schedule is late April, during the peak tourist season, the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival attracts more than 1 million people to stunning shades of pastures around Mount Vernon .

The festival was canceled shortly, but nothing was announced yet and the choir was preparing.

Carolyn Comstock and her husband, Jim Owen, along with friends Ruth and Mark Bucklund, carpooled from a town near Anacortes for a practice on March 10.

Caroline and Jim, who had been working together on home renovations, had been singing with the choir for 15 years and considered it a central force in their lives. They introduced Buckruns to the choir.

The couple entered the rented church hall (approximately the size of a volleyball court) and reached out to the disinfectant.

The metal chair with cushions stretched into 20 rows of 6 rows, about a foot between the chair and the feet, and a passage in the center. There were twice as many seats as people.

Soprano’s Comstock and tenor Owen were in regular seats in the third row. Rows filled around them forward and toward the center.

A 49-year-old Burdick headed for the choir, with an accompaniment sitting on the grand piano on his right.

Given the fear of the coronavirus, the conductor decided to lead with a piece called “Sing On”.

The singers breathed deeply and sang the chorus. No matter what, sing! Sing! “

The choir moved on to other figures, including a popular spiritual work written by the gospel legend Thomas A. Dorsey: “If we needed the Lord before, we’re now I need the Lord. “

At one point, the members split into two groups, each standing around a separate piano and singing.

When it was time to return, Burdick’s wife, Lorraine, sang professionally, but refrained from customarily embracing a friend.

Instead, she understated goodbye.

Three days later, Comstock felt chills. Sweaters did not help. She measured her temperature: 99.3.

She and Owen have canceled their dinner plan at Buckrunds’ home that evening.

At 9 pm she received a text from Ruth Buckland. Ruth, 72, and Mark, 73, had a fever.

Burdick woke up with heat the next day, March 14. When his body temperature rose to 103 degrees, he began to hear from other choir singers.

They felt tired and painful. Some had apparent symptoms of COVID-19, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some had nausea and diarrhea.

On March 15, Comstock, 62, noticed something strange when making pasta. She couldn’t taste the spicy Italian sausage sauce. She soon realized that loss of taste and smell was a common symptom.

When Owen, 66, first felt sick, he noticed that his body temperature was lower than normal and his symptoms were continuing. The same day, Buckruns tested negative for influenza.

Their clinic sent samples for coronavirus testing, which would return four days later, indicating that they both had COVID-19.

On March 17, choir members warned the Skagit County Public Health Service of the outbreak.

Working from the choir’s roster, twelve public health officers scrambled for three days to stop the outbreak. They called all members and decided who attended the rehearsal.

They asked each symptomatic person to list close contacts during the 24 hours before the disease began. Then they called them and told them to quarantine those who felt sick.

“I think it was a very unfortunate, high-risk event,” said county health official Dubbel.

Mark Buckland felt she was slipping, but not as bad as her 10-year-old runner friend, who rushed to the hospital with pneumonia. Both men will eventually recover.

On March 18, Burdick received a message from 83-year-old soprano Nancy “Nikki” Hamilton. An 83-year-old soprano, known for her stories of political activity and international travel. She was worried about fellow members.

Three days later he received another call. Hamilton was rushed to the hospital shortly after talking to her, and now she died.

The word spread quickly among the members of the choir, many of them were ill and left to grief alone in their home.

Health officials said that all 28 members of the choir who had been tested for COVID-19 were found to be infected. The other 17 patients who had symptoms were not tested because the test was not available or they felt that only people in distress, such as Comstock and Owen, were eligible.

According to the Department of Health, the youngest of these illnesses was 31, but on average 67.

In a two-storey house, Burdick and his wife kept the distance between them for a week. But Lorraine got sick anyway.

Birdix was cheered by hearing that another woman in the hospital (Alto in her 80s) seemed to be improving.

But last Friday, the conductor received another call. She died. Then another tenor woman was rushing to the hospital.

Others felt that their illness was waning. Fifteen days after the rehearsal, Comstock squirted shampoo into her hands and experienced a strange and enjoyable sensation.

I smelled. Like coconut.

Ma, a researcher at Virginia Tech, said the outbreak of chorus reminded me of a typical case study of the spread of infectious diseases.

In 1977, an Alaska Airlines flight experienced an engine problem and returned to Homer, Alaska, after turning off the ventilation system and sitting on a tarmac for four hours.

Of 49 passengers, 35 developed flu symptoms and 5 were hospitalized. The researchers eventually tracked the outbreak in a woman who felt better on board but later became ill.

The case surprised epidemiologists with the perception that flu could spread in the air.

Studies show that coronaviruses are nearly twice as common as influenza and are far more deadly.

Starting from the original source of the virus, there is still much to learn about the occurrence of chorus.

County official Davelle said he hopes to see a search someday to see how the infection spreads. But for now, her team is trying to contain additional outbreaks.

(Editor: The story can end here)

Ma said researchers would ask the choir members many questions.

Did the singers sit in conventional seats, remember the place of the day, and helped rebuild the layout of the room and its residents?

Did the 15 people who did not get sick sit together?

By Sunday, 99 people had tested positive in Skagit County.

It may take several months for the choir to meet again. But Backlund started singing again-alto and bass are singing together in the living room.

The couple, Comstock and Owen want to know if they have antibodies to the virus, so it is safe to provide food when the infection spreads and find other ways to help.

Comstock was amazed at all its randomness.

“It’s the usual random people doing what they want, and suddenly some people are suddenly dead,” she said. “It’s very cool.”

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