A Washington choir is in mourning after the novel coronavirus ripped through its ranks at lightning pace. Two members of the Skagit Valley Chorale have died and multiple others are confirmed infected with COVID-19 following a routine practice some three weeks ago.
According to a report in the LA Times, the group was debating whether or not to hold their weekly rehearsal — slated for March 10 — but decided to go ahead given that there were no reported cases in their area at the time.
Upon receiving a notice from choir conductor Adam Burdick, about half of the 121-strong choir turned up for rehearsal at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church. They took precautions; hand sanitizer was offered at the doors and physical contact was largely scaled back. According to those present, none of the attendees were showing symptoms.
Fast forward three weeks and some 45 of them have now been diagnosed with COVID-19. Three have been hospitalized and two are dead.
Experts are dumbfounded by the extent of the outbreak, not least because the virus spread so widely despite a restriction on physical contact.
Indeed, many have insisted that the disease must have taken on airborne characteristics and been transmitted from people who were not exhibiting any symptoms. This contradicts the officials line from the World Health Organization, which argues that the illness is spread via larger “respiratory droplets,” emitted when a person coughs or sneezes.
“That’s all we can think of right now,” Polly Dubbel, a county communicable disease and environmental health manager, said of the choir outbreak.
Other experts have suggested that larger droplets may have been released as the singers strained to project their voices during practice.
The choir members recalled singing faith-filled songs in a bid to rouse their spirits at such a frightening time. “Sing on! Whatever comes your way, sing on! Sing on!” they belted out. Another, written by gospel music legend Thomas A. Dorsey, boasted the declarative title: “If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now.”
The speed at which the situation became deadly has left many of the members reeling.
“It’s just normal random people doing things that they love to do, and all of a sudden some people are dead,” choir member Carolynn Comstock told the Times, expressing shock at the sudden loss of life. “It’s very sobering.”
Over 5,000 coronavirus cases have now been recorded in the state of Washington, with more than 200 deaths.
Do keep the families of those affected by this outbreak in your prayers at this time.