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COVID-19 cluster in Mass. traced back to bachelorette party in Rhode Island

A COVID-19 test.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Officials have traced a regional cluster of COVID-19 cases to a bachelorette party in Rhode Island where the group of 20 was “almost entirely from Massachusetts,” according to public health departments in each state.

Nineteen guests who attended the late July gathering were sickened by the virus — 17 of whom are Massachusetts residents, officials said. It was not clear where exactly in Rhode Island the party took place.

“Massachusetts managed the investigation and contact tracing for the Massachusetts residents,” said Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the R.I. Department of Health. “However, we coordinate on cross-border situations like this.”

A Massachusetts Department of Public Health official said that earlier this month, the department “learned of a cluster of 19 cases of COVID-19 among a group of individuals who rented a house together in Rhode Island for a wedding event that took place in late July,” and noted that “close contacts of the cases were identified and notified.”

The official also said the department notified Rhode Island about the cluster and has remained in contact with them.


The event was apparently brought to the public’s attention on Tuesday by Governor Charlie Baker, who made a passing mention to it during a COVID-19 news conference as he spoke about the virus having the power to “move from one person to another to another to another to another.”

“There was a wedding that we figured out through our contact-tracing program that took place in Rhode Island, where a number of people from Massachusetts went to it. Everyone who went to that wedding except one person tested positive for COVID,” Baker said, referring to the event as a wedding.

Massachusetts health department officials could not immediately be reached on Wednesday for further information on the extent of the outbreak.

This isn’t the first time a nuptial-related event led to an outbreak in New England.


In Maine, an Aug. 7 wedding in Millinocket has resulted in at least 60 COVID-19 cases, and a woman who contracted the virus has died.

Of the 60 cases, about 22 are primary cases, or people who attended the wedding or reception; about 14 are secondary cases, or close contacts of attendees; and about 24 are tertiary contacts, or close contacts of someone who was a secondary contact, according to Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Maine wedding has also been linked to recent outbreaks at a nursing home and a jail in that state, officials said Tuesday.

Travis Andersen and Emily Sweeney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.