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Sam the Superspreader: a story of COVID-19 clustering

Posted at 8:04 PM, May 21, 2020

In the video above we walk you through the facts of a scenario outlined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. We invent the character Sam, but everything else is a factual account as the CDC traces an infected individual causing a deadly outbreak with dozens getting sick.

One member of a church choir in Skagit County, Washington came down with Covid-19 and subsequently went to choir practice on March 10. Within twelve days, 53 of the 61 people at that choir practice had confirmed or probable Covid-19 infections. Three of them were hospitalized and two died.

Researchers say other coronaviruses, notably MERS and SARS, share a transmission trait with Covid-19: it tends to spread in clusters.

Along with the choir in Washington State, other examples include a Zumba class in South Korea, worker dormitories in Singapore, and cruise ships and nursing homes around the world.

Even the spread of COVID-19 in Utah’s Family Resource Center for people experiencing homelessness provides an example of the trend.

All of the incidents above involve large groups sharing an indoor space.

Utah’s health leaders have often been encouraged because their contact tracing shows most people with COVID-19 get if from someone close to them, meaning social distancing is keeping clusters from emerging.