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Coronavirus outbreak in southeast Illinois linked to 'mini-prom'

The Wabash County Health Department is trying to find everyone who attended the Aug. 4 event.

At least five people were infected with coronavirus after attending a non-school-sanctioned "mini-prom" in southeastern Illinois, officials said Friday.

Wabash County health officials want to find anyone who attended the Aug. 4 event in Mount Carmel, which is about 150 miles east of St. Louis and 130 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky.

In addition to the five infected so far, another 40 people with close contact to them have gone into quarantine, Wabash County Health Department Administrator Judy Wissel told NBC News on Friday. So far, none of them have been hospitalized.

Under state guidelines, as many as 50 people can gather inside as long as they can safely socially distance. But "none of the pictures we've seen, were there face masks on," Wissel said.

Several teens in the area posted photos of themselves — girls in gowns, boys in tuxedos — on Instagram on or around Aug. 4.

While they appeared ready for a formal event, it wasn't clear if they actually attended one. Some used the hashtag #quarantineprom.

The "mini-prom" goers were from Mt. Carmel High School. They threw the party in place of their traditional end-of-year formal, which was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Wissel.

"It was just a sub-group of kids who got together to have a prom," she said. "I'm not sure if parents had a role or helped it at all make it come together."

Wabash Unit Community Schools Superintendent Chuck Bleyer insisted that the district had no role in the "mini-prom."

"I don't know who organized the event or how many attended," Bleyer said. "Additionally, no school personnel were involved. Although the term 'prom' is used, it was purely private with no school affiliation."

The "mini-prom" attendees rented party space at the Anderson Building, at 15039 Four H Center Lane, officials said.

A woman who answered the phone number for the Anderson Building refused to say who rented the space on Aug. 4 and declined comment.