Boston M.D., Pals Go To Gay Men’s Beach Bash; All 6 Come Home Sick

Winter Party Festival, South Beach Miami, Florida | Image: Elvert Barnes, CC BY-SA 2.0

Mar 18, 2020 | 

Boston Globe – Dr. Joshua Ellis, a medical education fellow and emergency medicine physician at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was excited to celebrate his 30th birthday in Miami with five of his close friends.

They had been planning the trip to Florida since late fall — long before the novel coronavirus was even a blip on anyone’s radar.

They rented a house on Ocean Drive, steps away from beautiful South Beach.

They bought tickets to the Winter Party Festival, a week-long event (March 4-10) that brings thousands of gay men to Miami’s hotels, nightclubs, bars, and beaches to raise money for LGBTQ groups in South Florida.

Ellis and his friends traveled to Miami in early March — before the cascade of shutdowns, curfews, and closures that would swiftly upend American life — from all over the country: Seattle, Denver, Boston, Washington, D.C.

Since then, all six of them have gotten sick and with the same symptoms: chills, sweats, fatigue, shortness of breath. Four of them, including Ellis, already have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

“All six have shown the exact same symptoms at different times. So everyone in the household got it for sure — I am 100 percent confident; it’s too coincidental,” Ellis said in an interview this week, his nose running and voice hoarse.

“The fear, though, is a lot of them were actively enjoying their social life [before they felt sick] . . . going to bars, going to dinners, going and hanging out at friends’ houses, quarantining with friends.”

Ellis’s story illustrates just how quickly the coronavirus spreads between close contacts and how easily an infected person can unwittingly expose others to the virus in the absence of symptoms.

New research based on data from China suggests that undetected carriers of the virus are fueling the explosive growth of the outbreak.

A study published in the journal Science on Monday found that people with undocumented infections, often with mild or no symptoms, were responsible for 79 percent of confirmed cases in the early stages of China’s epidemic … Read more. 

Thousands attended Miami gay festival; several later tested positive for coronavirus

The Winter Party Festival drew attendees from across the country when it kicked off earlier this month.

March 17, 2020

NBC News – As the coronavirus continues to spread and disrupt life worldwide, one festival is finding the memory of its celebrations tinged by the outbreak.

The Winter Party Festival, an annual, weeklong LGBTQ event held in Miami, drew thousands from across the country when it kicked off earlier this month.

But though it ended March 10, in the week following the event several attendees have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to festival organizers.

“We know there are many places people could have been exposed before and after Winter Party as this virus has developed, but we wanted to make this information public as soon as possible,” Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, which organized the festival, said in a statement Monday. “The health and safety of anyone who participates in any Task Force event is of great importance to us.”

The festival, which began March 4 and drew 10,000 attendees throughout the week, predates the current wave of event cancellations that have swept through the nation and ranged from sporting leagues to tech conferences.

In her statement, Carey emphasized that event organizers “made the most informed decision at the time, following all official guidance available at the time.”

Event organizers took additional precautions during the festival, distributing 10,000 hand sanitizer bottles and hygiene information to attendees.

It remains unclear whether the virus was present in attendees for the duration of the festival, as none experienced symptoms at the time, but health officials warn the virus can still be transmitted before symptoms occur.

While incubation period estimates range from 1 to 14 days, it is most commonly around 5 days, according to the World Health Organization.

One by one, states and cities have begun to prohibit large crowds in an attempt to curb the virus’ spread. In Washington state, several counties have banned crowds over 250 people … Read more. 

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