A COVID-19 Outbreak of 46 Cases Has Been Traced Back to an Indoor Bar Opening Event, the CDC Says


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has linked an indoor bar opening event to an outbreak of 46 COVID-19 cases in Illinois—and one of the people who attended the event had been diagnosed with asymptomatic COVID-19 the day before.

The CDC released the report about the outbreak on Monday, and the agency says that the "findings underscore the importance of businesses and individuals adhering to public health prevention and mitigation guidelines to reduce additional community transmission," especially as community businesses begin to reopen, and even as vaccination efforts expand.

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The indoor opening event was held in February 2021. It is unknown how many people attended the event, but the 2,800-square-foot bar can hold about 100 people.

In all, 29 people who were at the bar opening contracted COVID-19, including 26 patrons and three of the six employees. Four of the 29 people later said that they had felt symptoms of the virus on the day of the event. One of those who was infected was partially vaccinated, having received the first dose less than a week before they tested positive. No one else who was infected had been vaccinated. Most of these cases were symptomatic. And again, one asymptomatic person went to the event even after receiving a positive COVID-19 test the day before.

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According to the report, there was no outside air flow at the bar. And while the bar had signs that encouraged mask use and physical distancing—and spaced out its tables—event attendees said that there was "inconsistent" mask use and physical distancing.

The 29 people who tested positive for COVID-19 after the event had in the meantime come in close contact with at least 71 people. Of those close contacts who got tested, 17 tested positive for COVID-19. Most of these cases were also symptomatic.

One of the bar attendees who tested positive had come in close contact with 26 people at a school during indoor sports practice and in-person learning. Two of the student athletes wound up testing positive, and the school closed for two weeks. According to the CDC, this school closure affected 650 children.

Another bar attendee who had tested positive worked at a long-term care facility. All of the facility's residents and staff members were tested after coming in close contact with the bar attendee, and one staff member and two residents tested positive. One of the residents who tested positive went to the hospital for a day.

The remaining 12 COVID-19 cases that were spread in the community following the bar event were in eight different households.

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"These findings show that SARS-CoV-2 transmission originating in a business such as a bar not only affects the patrons and employees of the bar but can also affect an entire community," according to the CDC.

And so, as more community businesses reopen—especially those like bars, where mask wearing and physical distancing are more challenging and so COVID-19 transmission risk is increased—the CDC stresses the importance of maintaining preventive measures. Those include avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, choosing an outdoor seating option when available, staying home when you feel sick, washing your hands with soap and water, staying 6 feet apart from those you don't live with, wearing a mask, and getting vaccinated.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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