The Los Angeles Times featured a story on Thursday about a wedding in Maine, which the CDC believes “likely” caused a COVID-19 outbreak, to argue that people should reconsider their small holiday gatherings.
“If you want to know why public health officials are so nervous about how much worse the COVID-19 pandemic will get as the holiday season unfolds, consider what happened after a single, smallish wedding reception that took place this summer in rural Maine,” the article states.
The LA Times claims that while only 55 people were actually at the reception, one guest reportedly spread the virus before the onset of their symptoms, causing 176 others to test positive within less than 40 days. Seven died.
A small wedding in Maine: 177 infected with COVID. 7 dead. https://t.co/uec45VbUhv
— MacKenzie Elmer (@mckelmer) November 12, 2020
The catch in this scenario, however, is that none the seven deaths that the article implies occurred because people gathered had attended the event.
"None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party." https://t.co/t83rCT0JUY
— Joy Pullmann (@JoyPullmann) November 13, 2020
An official CDC report about the spread stated that none of the people who attended the reception and tested positive were even hospitalized.
Six of the seven deaths included in the tally occurred in a long-term care facility after a wedding guest passed the virus to their parent who also happened to be a healthcare worker in a nursing home. Despite experiencing “fever, chills, cough, myalgia, runny nose, and headache,” the worker still worked for two days after the onset of their symptoms.
Three days after their symptoms manifested, the worker was tested but did not receive a positive result until five days after that. By then, universal testing was implemented at the care facility which resulted in at least 14 positive staff members (18.4 percent) and 24 residents (54.5 percent).
Six of the residents, all over 60 with underlying medical conditions, died following the outbreak.
The seventh death occurred in someone over the age of 75 who was hospitalized with the virus but did not attend the wedding.
Despite a subsequent outbreak in a corrections facility where a wedding guest worked, there were no hospitalizations or deaths in staff or inmates.
The LA Times has a history of misconstruing COVID-19 reporting to fit a narrative.
In late October, the publication targeted California pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church by publishing an article that framed the congregation’s three reported COVID-19 cases as an “outbreak,” despite having more than 7,000 congregants.
“Coronavirus outbreak strikes L.A. megachurch that defied public health orders,” the headline read.
Jenna Ellis, attorney for MacArthur and Grace Community Church, denounced the article, undercutting its biased framing in a statement.
“Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news. 0.0004 or 0.043% is not an ‘outbreak,’” she said. “The LA Times and others’ grossly misleading and fear-mongering headlines aim to mischaracterize Grace Community Church as irresponsible and a superspreader.”