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Ritzville wedding with 300 guests becomes COVID-19 super-spreader event

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 18, 2020

A wedding near Ritzville that hosted 300 people has become the latest coronavirus superspreading event, leaving dozens of guests infected with COVID-19 in Grant and Adams counties.

Health officials in both counties announced 40 people, and likely more, are sick. They are asking attendees of the Nov. 7 wedding to quarantine through Nov. 21 and to get tested for COVID-19.

The wedding took place a week before Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on social gatherings due to increasing coronavirus cases.

The wedding took place between Moses Lake and Ritzville in a rural area, Adams County Health Department nursing director Karen Potts said. She said she believes the couple who married were from Othello.

All indications show it was held inside, Potts said.

A Grant County Health District news release indicated attendees came from multiple communities and local health jurisdictions, making it necessary to notify the public.

“We are very thankful to those attendees who have gone in for testing and are staying home,” Grant County Health District Administrator Theresa Adkinson said in the release. “This helps protect their friends, coworkers and communities from this illness.”

In Grant County, the number of people infected at the wedding is nearing 40.

The Grant County Health District announced Tuesday that, due to a surge of new cases, it is not able to complete contact tracing at this time.

The district reminded those who test positive that the best way to break the links of transmission is to stay home.

“When you stay home, you choose to prevent further infections and possible hospitalizations or deaths,” the release reads.

Subsequent outbreaks could be beginning. Officials are working with a long-term care facility and a school district based on links to wedding attendees or COVID cases resulting from contact with one, the Grant County Health District said in a news release.

Officials in Adams County reported three cases.

“That doesn’t mean there’s only three,” Potts said Tuesday.

Not many Adams County residents get tested, and of those who do, many often get tested elsewhere, Potts said. She also doesn’t have a guest list for the wedding, so it’s difficult to say how many attendees may have already tested negative.

Adams County is offering two days of free testing this week in Othello, Potts said. The site is unrelated to the wedding outbreak, but Potts called it “very timely.”

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday new restrictions on indoor social gatherings, including a limit of no more than 30 people at wedding ceremonies. Receptions are prohibited.

The capacity limit for weddings and funerals won’t change much in Adams County, however, as counties in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan were already limited to 30 guests or 25% of maximum building capacity, whichever was less.

Health officials in Grant County are urging wedding organizers to keep a log of attendees at each service and keep that log for at least two weeks. The information could be critical if an outbreak occurs, according to a news release.

Throughout the pandemic, Grant County has had more than 4,000 COVID-19 cases, with the county hitting a daily record of 135 cases on Monday. The county reported 88 new cases on Tuesday.

Adams County has had more than 1,200 COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic, reporting 50 new cases over the weekend.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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