Dozens of choir members sickened by coronavirus, 2 dead, after early March rehearsal

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (KIRO/COX/CNN) - Dozens of choir members have gotten sick in a deadly COVID-19 cluster.

Sixty members of a choir attended a rehearsal at a church in early March. Nearly everyone who attended rehearsal got sick. (Source: Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church/KIRO/Cox/CNN)

Before businesses and schools shut down, nearly 60 people in the choir met at a church to practice.

The choir said nearly everyone who had shown up was sick days later, and two people have since died.

Carolynn Comstock and her husband Jim Owen both are on the board of Skagit Valley Chorale, and both said they’re still recovering after falling ill.

“It’s really shocking how contagious it is,” she said.

They and about half of their 120-person choir met for a two and a half hour rehearsal on March 10.

“So now we know, oh hmm, maybe it’s transmitted not just by droplets and sneezes or coughs. Maybe it’s transmitted just by people talking, just by people being around each other. And then, of course, if you’re singing, there’s more volume to the talking, deep breathing and more volume,” Comstock said.

Comstock and Owen said people were told not to come if they were sick or worried.

“During the entire rehearsal, no one sneezed, no one coughed, no one there appeared to be sick in any way,” she said.

Comstock said she had a fever three days later.

“I couldn’t taste anything or smell anything,” she said.

Then her husband got sick - "totally fatigued,” he said

So did the couple they said they carpooled with to the rehearsal, the couple who later tested positive for COVID-19.

“Comparing our symptoms with the symptoms of the other people who were sick and the emails that were going around, we went, ‘Wow, this is a weird virus.’” Comstock said.

“Lots of different flavors of the same thing,” Owen said.

Health officials said the county’s first COVID-19 death was from the choir cluster.

“It has shocked us that they are so now quickly gone from us,” Owen said.

It later killed a second person.

“I don’t think there are regrets. I think we are just so impressed and shocked that this thing that’s hit our nation is so virulent,” Owen said.

As the majority of the choir members recover, the church said there have been no gatherings since that March 10 rehearsal.

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