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Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by inhalation of respiratory aerosol in the Skagit Valley Chorale superspreading event

By Shelly L Miller, William W Nazaroff, Jose L Jimenez, Atze Boerstra, Giorgio Buonanno, Stephanie J. Dancer, Jarek Kurnitski, Linsey C. Marr, Lidia Morawska, Catherine Noakes

Posted 17 Jun 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.15.20132027

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, an outbreak occurred following attendance of a symptomatic index case at a regular weekly rehearsal on 10 March of the Skagit Valley Chorale (SVC). After that rehearsal, 53 members of the SVC among 61 in attendance were confirmed or strongly suspected to have contracted COVID-19 and two died. Transmission by the airborne route is likely. It is vital to identify features of cases such as this so as to better understand the factors that promote superspreading events. Based on a conditional assumption that transmission during this outbreak was by inhalation of respiratory aerosol, we use the available evidence to infer the emission rate of airborne infectious quanta from the primary source. We also explore how the risk of infection would vary with several influential factors: the rates of removal of respiratory aerosol by ventilation; deposition onto surfaces; and viral decay. The results indicate an emission rate of the order of a thousand quanta per hour (mean [interquartile range] for this event = 970 [680-1190] quanta per hour) and demonstrate that the risk of infection is modulated by ventilation conditions, occupant density, and duration of shared presence with an infectious individual.

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