• A new CDC case study has revealed the impact just one person can have when they don’t adhere to social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • One family member with mild symptoms attended two family gatherings in Chicago and ended up infecting 16 family members with the coronavirus, resulting in three deaths.
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For anyone out there who’s been slacking a bit on their social distancing and quarantine behaviors lately, even though you may be starting to hear that the nation is seeing a few “glimmers of hope” in our coronavirus data, this one is for you.

How much damage can one person really do by not adhering to those social distancing guidelines, you might be tempted to ask yourself. A new case study the CDC conducted of a Chicago family provides the answer. In short, one family member displaying apparently mild symptoms of the virus showed up to a funeral, and that set off a chain reaction of infection within the family — resulting in 16 family members being infected, as well as three, sadly, dying from the virus.

According to a summary provided within the report, the CDC’s “investigation of COVID-19 cases in Chicago identified a cluster of 16 confirmed or probable cases, including three deaths, likely resulting from one introduction. Extended family gatherings including a funeral and a birthday party likely facilitated transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in this cluster.”

All US residents, the report goes on to stress, should let this be a reminder to rigorously adhere to CDC recommendations for social distancing — to avoid gatherings and to follow stay-at-home orders when required by state or local authorities.

The gatherings described in the report about the Chicago family took place back in February. In all, 16 people were infected, with the age range of those infected spanning five years old to 86. What’s worse, the report shows how not just the family but the city of Chicago more broadly was exposed as a result of this one person with mild symptoms showing up to a family gathering.

The gatherings included a birthday party and a funeral, both held three days apart. The infected person shared a takeout meal with a pair of family members at the funeral, where they stayed for three hours. A number of people who were hugged ended up being infected. The birthday party followed, where the infected carrier shared food and hugged guests. More infections followed.

Some of those family members who were infected ended up in the hospital, where other family members came to visit them — and share hugs. Again, more infections followed, to the point that the CDC speculates this spurred more cases of coronavirus throughout Chicago. “Media reports suggest the chain of transmission described in Chicago is not unique within the United States,” the report concludes. “Together with evidence emerging from around the world, these data shed light on transmission beyond household contacts, including the potential for super-spreading events.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.