Southern California birthday party blamed for COVID-19 cluster

One attendee joked that, because she was coughing, she probably had the virus, a city of Pasadena spokeswoman said.

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By Dennis Romero

A recent birthday party in Pasadena, California, is being blamed for a cluster of five coronavirus cases that could continue to grow, health officials said Saturday.

The Pasadena Public Health Department used contact tracing — investigating the history of contact between a patient and others — to discover the cluster, officials said. Five people tested positive, but health officials found "many more ill individuals" whose tests were not yet reported, the department said in a statement.

"The party was attended by a large number of extended family members and friends after the Safer at Home Order was issued," the statement said.

"The index case, or the first patient in the outbreak identified with the disease, was coughing and not wearing a face covering at the party. Guests were also not wearing face coverings or practicing social distancing."

City spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said the party took place around Easter, April 12, at a private home where attendees were inside and outdoors. "No social distancing, face covering or masks," she said by email.

"One family member joked she was coughing and probably had the virus," Derderian said.

The spokeswoman said that by law positive COVID-19 cases must be reported to the health department. Officials there credit contact tracing with preventing the cluster from becoming an outright outbreak because patients have been identified and isolated.

"We’re grateful to our large team of public health nurses, case investigators, and contact tracers who help track the virus and prevent the disease from spreading to other members of our community," the department's Dr. Matthew Feaster said in its statement.

Officials say the case illustrates why it wouldn't be wise to gather for Mother's Day on Sunday.

"Our fear is people will gather on Mother’s Day with a false sense of security because more retail, even if just curbside, is opening up around us," Derderian said. "Don’t give into guilt of physically seeing mom unless she’s physically been in your immediate household otherwise the guilt will be more extreme after the fact if mom or grandma be some ill."

Pasadena officials have reported 542 cases and 65 deaths.