By Kayla Anderson
A few weeks ago, a private event held on private property in Mineral County led to an outbreak in COVID-19 cases. Just as worrisome, those infected had a variant of the virus that made it more easily contagious to others.
At least 30 people in Hawthorne were infected in less than a week- many of them elementary school children- which gave the event a superspreader label. The outbreak of cases caused the Mineral County School District to transition its elementary school to full remote learning for the first week in February.
Mineral County Deputy Health Officer Christina Boyles says that the State lab’s contact tracing investigation led them to identify the outbreak but tracking COVID-19 cases past the private event is virtually impossible. Boyles could not say what type of event it was, only that it was not sanctioned by any school or community group. Hawthorne Elementary has since reopened and many of those who tested positive from the superspreader event have since recovered and gone back out in public again. However, Boyles says that it can take around 14 days for any additional outbreaks or systems from the previous event to reemerge.
“Kids who were affected are starting to go back out. Our idea (behind issuing the press release) was to stop the spread by keeping people home for at least a week to be able to get things opened back up safely,” Boyles says.
Local health authorities also asked the State to investigate the reason why this event infected so many people, since COVID-19 generally attacks around five percent of people exposed at a normal superspreader event. However, this superspreader event in Mineral County infected more people than the average number of people which made health officials wonder if there were any COVID-19 variants found in those who were infected. The State health department had the lab in Reno further test the samples that were sent in, and COVID-19 mutations were indeed found in the samples.
“There were a couple of mutations found, such as the L452R (also known as the B1429) that’s linked to California’s spread and the UK variant B117 was also found,” Boyles says. While both mutations are thought to give people the same symptoms of Covid-19, B117 is said to spread and infect those who are exposed at a faster pace.
When asked if there were any repercussions to those who host superspreader events, Boyles replies, “Right now there’s nothing in Nevada’s statutes that addresses that or any way to enforce it. No one is trying to point fingers or place blame; we’re just trying to get ahead of it before it gets any worse. This was unintentional and no one could’ve known that this was going to happen.
“It’s still an ongoing thing with the state labs. We know we have some variants, but we believe we’ve gotten ahead of it.”
People as young as three years old to those in their eighties were infected from the event, and there has been some trickle from it.
“Co-workers and other family members are starting to see the effects from that event, but we’re just trying to stay on top of it,” Boyles says.