A poker game held as part of a weekend gathering of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in the town of Republic, Washington resulted in the first hospitalizations from COVID there in months. As of Wednesday, 95 people had tested positive. The town is now in lockdown.
The F.O.E. #68, located appropriately on Knob Hill Road, put on a three-day event from Apr 9-11 that included pool tournaments, poker, and live music. The event was, in part, a protest against COVID restrictions.
A video of the live entertainment on the same Facebook page shows grey-haired women crowded around tables indoors without masks.
Cases of COVID in the town spiked in the following week. The community-seeded cases were traced back to the F.O.E. event. A player in the club’s poker tournament had tested positive, and every player who shared the table with patient zero ended up infected. They went on to infect others.
On Apr 13, the F.O.E. #68 facebook page posted this: “We’ve just been notified that a member who was here last Friday evening, has tested positive for COVID – we wanted you to be aware, so that you can take any precautions you feel are necessary and know that we are doing the same.”
Where the Eagles club dares
The town of Republic has the only hospital for 50 miles. Twenty-five percent of its patients are now COVID positive. In a small community like Republic, there is very little slack available to deal with situations like this.
The entire town is shut down now, because most of the population are either infected or have been exposed to someone who has been. The bank closed and had to bring in temporary workers. Only one grocery store is currently open.
Northeast Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Sam Artzis said that the significance of the superspreader event was immediately obvious to him “because of the amount of people that were showing up symptomatic. […] We were already seeing people showing up at the hospital within that first week, which we hadn’t seen for several weeks to months prior to that.”
Jeff King, the F.O.E.’s local president, told local news channel KREM that he felt the club had made no mistakes in holding the event. In fact, the poker tourney and accompanying event were viewed as such a success by the F.O.E., that they planned to host another one the weekend after.
“I feel we did all the right steps,” King said. “It’s everybody’s fault when something like this happens. And we gotta take our piece of this and try and work through it and reopen in a safer manner.”
The Fraternal Order of Eagles’ mission statement says that one of the goals of the club is “to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills.” There’s enough irony there to stand a spoon in.
Featured image source: Flickr by USFWS