181 Caught COVID at CDC Conference

Gathering of 'disease detectives' gets unwanted surprise
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2023 10:55 AM CDT
At 'Disease Detectives' Forum, a COVID Outbreak
Stock photo.   (Getty/Rattankun Thongbun)

A group of CDC specialists described as "disease detectives" by the Washington Post have gotten an unexpected case study to examine—their own. Of the 1,800 people who attended an agency conference in Atlanta last month, at least 181 contracted COVID, reports Ars Technica, citing an agency news release. The conference ran April 24-27 at a hotel in the city. None of the cases required hospitalization, but 27% of those who got sick reported taking antiviral medications. Some other odds and ends about the cases:

  • For more than half (52%), it was their first bout with COVID.
  • Nearly everyone was vaccinated, though 70% opted not to wear masks.

Maskless attendees weren't ignoring their own agency's guidelines: Levels were low in the surrounding community, and the CDC doesn't recommend masks in such cases. "Irony" aside, the outbreak has things to tell us about the current state of COVID, writes reporter Keren Landman at Vox, who was at the conference for two days. "There's probably more [COVID] circulating at big events than we realize," writes Landman, but cases are typically less severe (often asymptomatic) than at the height of the pandemic. The possibility of contracting the virus at mass events will be with us for a while, and for many—including public health experts—"the benefits of gathering now outweigh the risks." (More COVID-19 stories.)

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