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Was the Sundance Film Festival an early outbreak of COVID-19?

Posted at 4:18 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 21:03:09-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Sundance Film Festival may have been an early outbreak of COVID-19 in Utah.

"Sundance seems like a really long time ago, but it was definitely at the beginning of this outbreak," state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn told reporters Wednesday at a briefing on COVID-19.

The Hollywood Reporter published accounts of film industry types who contracted something while attending the annual film festival in Park City. In hindsight, many now wonder if it was novel coronavirus.

"I started texting other people who had been at Sundance, and one said, 'Yo, we just started calling it the Sundance Plague on social media,'" actress Ashley Jackson told the publication. "We all had the same symptoms, all had the cough, all had trouble breathing at night. Some of us got humidifiers and some got oxygen. And we were all just miserable for three to four weeks. And then out of nowhere, we're back living in society like nothing is wrong. And then I see all these coronavirus stories, and I was like, 'Whoa.'"

Thousands attend the festival every year, coming from all over the globe. Dr. Dunn said the Utah Department of Health provides guidance to Sundance organizers on best health practices.

"It is definitely possible that COVID-19 was circulating at Sundance," Dr. Dunn said. "I would recommend the people that felt like they had symptoms, they can work with their local health department or provider and potentially get an antibody test, other than that, there’s not a lot of interventions that would be useful to public health at this point."