Thousands attend Miami gay festival and then test positive for coronavirus

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Attendees at the 2015 Winter Party Festival in Miami. (Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)Andriana Mereuta / Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images file

Distributing hygiene information and hand sanitizer at a homosexual festival might seem like the definition of futility, and at the recent Winter Party Festival the coronavirus was apparently spread to several people.

The annual, weeklong LGBTQ event in Miami drew thousands from across the country when it kicked off in early March. But though it ended March 10, several attendees have subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus, festival organizers told NBC News.

“We know there are many places people could have been exposed before and after Winter Party as this virus has developed, but we wanted to make this information public as soon as possible,” Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, which put together the festival, said in a statement on March 16.

The festival, which started on March 4 and drew 10,000 attendees that week, occurred before event cancellations swept across the nation and shut down events from sports competittions to tech conferences. In her statement, Carey emphasized that event organizers “made the most informed decision at the time, following all official guidance available at the time.”

Organizers took additional precautions during the festival, she said, distributing 10,000 hand sanitizer bottles and hygiene tips to attendees. It remains unclear whether the virus was present in attendees for the duration of the festival, as none experienced symptoms at the time, but officials say the virus can still be transmitted before symptoms occur. While incubation period estimates range from 1 to 14 days, it is usually around 5 days, according to the World Health Organization.

States and cities have begun to try to prohibit large crowds in an attempt to curb the virus’ spread. In Washington state, several counties have banned crowds over 250 people, while New York city has implemented a similar ban for gatherings over 500. On Monday, President Donald Trump established new guidelines which advised against but did not prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.

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