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Marquette County Health department releases clarification on COVID-19 terminology

The clarification comes after the health department released details about a “super-spreader event” in Calumet last weekend.
Marquette County Health Department logo with CDC coronavirus graphic.
Marquette County Health Department logo with CDC coronavirus graphic.(MCHD/CDC)
Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 2:29 PM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The Marquette County Health Department (MCHD) is releasing clarification on COVID-19 terminology following a Thursday release about a “super-spreader event” in Calumet.

The event was a youth hockey tournament that happened at the Calumet Colosseum Feb. 27 and Feb. 28. With contact tracing continuing still, additional exposure sites may be announced.

Below, you will find more information and explanations from the MCHD:

What is a super-spreader event?

  • A super-spreader event is an occasion, where a gathering of people leads to an outbreak of infections, which may have arisen from just one infected attendee. Super-spreader events are serious as can result in a marked increase in community transmission.

What is a super-spreader?

  • Super-spreader refers to a propensity to infect a larger than average number of people. Super-spreaders are highly infectious. Most super-spreaders are unaware they are infected and pass the virus on unknowingly.

But what makes a super-spreader?

  • Becoming a super-spreader depends on being highly infectious, but people also become super-spreaders because of what they do. In any pandemic, 10-20% of the population spread 80% of the infections, 70% infect no one, while 10-20% are “average” transmitters. This is true for the COVID-19 pandemic. Identifying super-spreaders is only possible after an event through investigation and even then, commonly not possible.
  • There aren’t readily available identifiers—age, sex, etc. Many people remain unaware they are most contagious early in the infection before symptoms ever develop.

How can this happen when all protections were followed?

  • Mitigating measures such as masking, social distancing, and hygiene markedly decrease the chances on being infected. But it is nearly impossible to be compliant 100% of the time.
  • Other behaviors increase the risk: close contact; not wearing, inappropriate wearing or intermittent use of a mask; indoor vs outdoor activities; sports, especially contact sports (like hockey); and poor ventilation to name a few. It is common among sporting teams for COVID transmission to occur “off the field (ice, court, etc)” secondary to socializing while ‘letting your guard down’.

Possible COVID-19 Super-Spreader Event at Calumet Youth Hockey Tournament:

  • We initially identified and traced several COVID positive players and spectators who were present at this event. This number doubled over several days and currently we have more than 12 with COVID positive tests or with COVID compatible illness but without testing being performed.
  • This spread is consistent with a super-spreader event. Case identification usually underestimates by a factor of 4-5 of the real number of cases.

Why does it matter?

  • For the players, because of their age - very little!
  • For their parents and especially the grandparents, it could be a matter of life and death.
  • A recent review of Upper Peninsula fatality rates shows for those age 50-64, a rate of about .5%; 3% for those age 65-74; and 12% for those 75-85.
  • Not to mention the 10-30% who suffer for months if not permanently for the effects of the COVID infection.

Given the above facts, it was the decision of the Marquette County Health Department Medical Director, following state and national medical standards, to recommend quarantine to contain this outbreak, protect our community, and continue our progress addressing this pandemic.

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