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Illinois bar event caused 46 COVID-19 cases, school closure

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CHICAGO (AP) — An indoor event at a bar in rural Illinois triggered 46 cases of COVID-19, the hospitalization of a resident of a long-term care facility and a school shutdown, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Monday.

Attendees of the bar opening event in February reported “inconsistent” mask wearing and lax physical distancing. In the end, those who tested positive for COVID-19 included three bar staff members, 26 patrons and 17 others who were infected by those who went to the bar. A 650-student school had to shut down because so many people were in quarantine, according to the CDC.

The findings show that “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,” the report said.

For example, one bar patron who reported a runny nose two days after the event had close contact with 26 people during in-person classes and indoor sports practice at school. Within days, two student athletes tested positive for COVID-19. The school closed for two weeks starting Feb. 18 because 13 school employees were in isolation, quarantine or had a child who was quarantined.

The report didn’t name the establishment or the local health department that investigated the outbreak, but a citation in the report noted that several of the report’s authors work for the Douglas County Health Department. The population of the county in east central Illinois is under 20,000.

A spokeswoman from the health department based in Tuscola, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) from Chicago, didn’t immediately have comment Monday. Past outbreaks in Tuscola have been linked to large gatherings.

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