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Ritzville wedding superspreader linked to secondary outbreaks

by EMRY DINMAN
Staff Writer | November 18, 2020 1:00 AM

The impact of a Ritzville-area wedding nearly two weeks ago continues to grow as officials get a better understanding of how many people have become infected.

The Grant County Health District has identified nearly 40 Grant County residents infected with the coronavirus after attending the event, up from 17 cases that were reported Monday, said Environmental Health Manager Stephanie Shopbell. In addition, a local school district and long-term care facility have been affected either directly by wedding attendees or by secondary cases linked to the superspreader event.

The Adams County Health Department has also identified at least three Adams County residents who were infected with the coronavirus after attending the Nov. 7 wedding.

A small number of other individuals are awaiting their test results, though officials are concerned that it may just be a drop in the bucket from the 300-person event.

Adams County health officials scrambled to identify potentially infected individuals after learning of the superspreader event from a Monday press release by the neighboring Grant County Health District, said Karen Potts, administrator for the Adams County Health Department. In that release, the Grant County Health District stated that it had already found 17 Grant County residents that had attended the wedding and then tested positive.

Attendees with COVID-19 also have been linked to two subsequent outbreaks, the health district wrote. Additional infected Grant County residents had been identified by Tuesday evening, but the health district was not able to provide a current tally before deadline.

Grant County health officials said Tuesday that they only identified the wedding as an infection vector after a number of attendees voluntarily submitted themselves for COVID-19 testing. Adams County officials initially had no such luck, Potts said.

“Yesterday we didn’t have a clue where this took place, and we spent quite a bit of time trying to find that out today,” Potts said.

Health department staff since have identified an old agricultural building on private land outside of Ritzville city limits, but still within the town’s zip code.

“Everybody has been calling thinking it was Ritzville, but I’m not at all certain that anybody from Ritzville was involved in any way,” Potts said. “It appears the families involved had Othello roots, and the bridal party had been from Othello.”

The health department is asking anyone who may have attended the event to get tested, Potts added.

“We’re just trying very very hard to track down people who were there to ensure they either get quarantined or get tested,” she said.