Dozens from Skagit County choir sick in COVID-19 cluster that killed 2

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Dozens of singers from the Skagit Valley Chorale have tested positive for COVID-19, including two people who have died, following a choir rehearsal the group held at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church on March 10.

Carolynn Comstock and her husband Jim Owen, both Skagit Valley Chorale board members, said nearly 60 members of the 120-person choir attended the rehearsal and nearly every one of them has tested positive for COVID-19 or shown symptoms with two additional reported cases Monday.

"It's really shocking how contagious it is,” said Comstock, who got sick three days later the rehearsal, followed by her husband.

The March 10 choir practice took place before businesses and schools were shutdown by Governor Inslee. Comstock and Owens said the group followed the health guidelines at the time and told people not to come to the practice if they were sick or worried.

"During the entire rehearsal, no one sneezed, no one coughed, no one there appeared to be sick in anyway,” said Comstock.

"So now we know, oh hmm, maybe it's transmitted not just by droplets and sneezes or coughs; maybe it's transmitted just by people talking, just by people being around each other,” said Comstock. “And then of course, if you're singing there's more volume to the talking, deep breathing and more volume."

Comstock said her symptoms included a fever, while her husband was fatigued.

“Couldn't taste anything or smell anything,” said Comstock.

The couple decided to isolate themselves and said a couple they carpooled with to the rehearsal also got sick and later tested positive for COVID-19.

"Comparing our symptoms with the symptoms of the other people who were sick and the emails that were going around — we went, ‘wow this is a weird virus,’’ said Comstock.

“Lots of different flavors of the same thing,” said Owen.

Skagit County Public Health said the county’s first resident to die because of COVID-19 had attended the March 10 rehearsal – A choir member in her 80s who health officials said had been hospitalized at Skagit Valley Hospital.

"It has shocked us,” said Owen. “That they are so now quickly gone from us."

Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church told KIRO 7 that the choir is not part of the church but is allowed to rehearse there. The church said there have been no gatherings there since the March 10 choir rehearsal.

“I don’t think there are regrets,” said Owen. “I think we are just so impressed and shocked that this thing that’s hit our nation is so virulent.”