DisCon III Daily Covid Report Has Five New Cases

DisCon III emailed members on December 28 about five more positive test results among people who attended last week’s Worldcon. This will be the final daily report from their COVID response team tracking contacts after the convention. One more report will be sent next week. Overall, as of December 27th, 31 people have reported positive test results, one of which was a false positive.

Here are links to the earlier reports:

The report begins with a comparison of DisCon III’s Covid statistics with those of the District of Columbia generally, then follows with updated CDC and other advice about how to handle positive tests. Details of the five new cases are at the end.


DisCon III December 28 Email

As we move further in time from DisCon III, it becomes increasingly difficult to be certain that any given COVID case was contracted at the convention instead of during post-convention activities. Today is our last daily email. We will send another update one week later, but we will generally limit our reporting to tests conducted before 12/26 whose results were delayed in arriving, or to members who were symptomatic before 12/26 but had difficulty obtaining tests.

This email contains the 5 new cases at the top, followed by the text of our previous email for easy reference. If you have any questions or concerns, please email covid@discon3.org.

Overall, as of December 27th, 31 people have reported positive test results, one of which was a false positive.

To put these numbers into context, DisCon III had approximately 2,300 attendees. In the ten days between December 17th and December 26th, 26 of them—1.13%—reported positive test results.

In contrast, the District of Columbia has approximately 670,000 residents. In the ten days between December 17th and December 26th, 17,546 of them—2.62%—reported positive test results.

This is not and cannot be a perfect comparison. Among other things, we do not know what percentage of DisCon III members did not report their COVID status to DisCon III, or what percentage of DC residents’ tests have not been reported to the Department of Health. But we hope having context for DC’s overall infection rate will help explain why the number of cases reported in these emails has been so high. The fact that our apparent rate is lower than the general DC rate, we attribute it to our masking and vaccination requirements.

(We are calculating starting from December 17th because that was the first day DisCon III received a case report, and ending December 26th because DC has not yet made available data from December 27th. We are including DisCon III’s false positive in this number because DC does not extract false positives from its data.)

Please note that the CDC has updated its isolation and quarantine advice as of December 27, 2021.

  • For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, the CDC now recommends full quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days after exposure
  • Individuals who have received a booster should wear a mask at all times when around others for 10 days following exposure but do not need to quarantine.
  • DisCon III encourages all attendees to act as though they were exposed, and we especially encourage this of anyone who attended a Business Meeting, as a disproportionate number of cases occurred among participants there.

What to do if you test positive for COVID-19?

  • Tell the convention at covid@discon3.org. We will keep your name private but may share anonymized information about your activities for contract-tracing purposes. With your consent, we will also report non-anonymized data to the DC Department of Health.
  • If your positive test result was from an at-home antigen test, try to obtain a PCR test for confirmation.
  • If you are a resident of DC and used an at-home antigen test, report the result to DC. If you live in another jurisdiction, ask your doctor how to report your result.
  • Think about where you were and if you had your mask off.
  • Inform anyone you know personally and were in close contact with about your test result
  • Close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more within 2 days prior to illness onset, regardless of whether the contact was wearing a mask.
  • The CDC recommends an initial 5-day isolation period. If after 5 days you are asymptomatic, you no longer need to isolate but you should wear a mask when around others for 5 additional days. If you are still symptomatic after 5 days, you should continue to isolate. (This is an updated recommendation released on December 27th.) Day zero is the first day you develop symptoms or test positive.

Case AA 

  • Received a positive PCR test result on Sunday, 26th December, for a test conducted on Thursday, 23rd December
  • Asymptomatic
  • Was at the Omni Shoreham beginning Monday, December 13
  • Visited the dealer’s room and the art show repeatedly
  • Attended program items including:
    • Almost There Filk (Tue)
    • Open Ceremonies (far back on left) (Wed)
    • Amy McNally concert (Wed)
    • Pick, Pass, or Play Filk (Wed)
    • Stroll with the Stars (unmasked) (Thur)
    • Changing Genes (far back on right) (Thur)
    • Memorial Filk Circle (Thur)
    • Chaos Filk (Thur)
    • Filk Concert (Fri)
    • What Is Filk (Fri)
    • Seanan McGuire concert (far back on left) (Fri)
    • Tiara workshop (Fri)
    • Chaos Filk (Fri)
    • Stroll with the Stars (unmasked) (Sat)
    • Culture of the Conquered (far back on left) (Sat)
    • Sara Heney (far back on left) (Sat)
    • 2020 Ruined My Book (back row against the wall) (Sat)
    • Closing Ceremonies (middle of front middle section) (Sun)
    • Dead Dog Filk (Sun, after 8 pm)
  • Attended the Masquerade (first row back from the big aisle, middle of row) and the Hugo Awards (first row back from big aisle, middle of row)
  • Dined at Lebanese Taverna (5 pm Thur), Robert’s Restaurant (evening Fri), Rajaj (5:30 pm Sat)
  • Dining companions have tested negative

Case AB

  • Received a positive PCR test result on Monday, 27th December, for a test conducted on Tuesday, 21st December.
  • Symptoms include running nose, cough, headache, and body aches
  • Partner tested negative on Tuesday, 21st December, but began experiencing symptoms on Thursday, 23rd December, and is now seeking an additional test
  • Was at the Omni from Thursday, 16th December, through Monday, 20th December
  • Dined in Robert’s Restaurant Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings. Ate dinner at Lebanese Taverna Friday and Sunday evenings
  • Visited the dealer’s room and attended the Hugo Awards reception, ceremony, and afterparty
  • Participated in Saturday evening karaoke
  • Socialized in the lobby and by the firepits outside the hotel

Case AC – Marcia Illingworth, named by request

  • Tested positive on Monday, 27th December, after difficulty obtaining a test
  • Symptomatic since Wednesday, 22nd December
  • Stayed off-site at the Days Inn
  • Worked Magpie Curios in the dealer’s room from Wednesday through Sunday
  • Dined at Thai Pad on Wednesday, 15th December
  • Roommates have tested positive, see below

Case AD – Sally Kobee, named by request

  • Tested positive on Monday, 27th December, with a home antigen test
  • Symptoms began Monday, 20th December, and include scratchy throat, nasal congestion, and cough
  • Stayed off-site at the Days Inn, roommate of case AC
  • Commuted via metro
  • Spent all five days of the convention working in the dealer’s room

Case AE – Ralph Franklin Smith, named by request

  • Tested positive on Monday, 27th December, with a home antigen test
  • Asymptomatic
  • Stayed off-site at the Days Inn, roommate of case AC

28 thoughts on “DisCon III Daily Covid Report Has Five New Cases

  1. I just want to take a moment to commend the clarity, practicality, and sane scientific perspective of these reports. I’ve never seen this done better by anyone (though I’ve heard that Taiwan, which is extremely serious about such efforts, does).

    I’ve been saying for two years that the story of this pandemic would be greatly different if data missing for lack of meaningful amounts of timely testing, reporting, and contact-tracing. I get the impression that DisCon III furnished something rarely seen in North America, these last couple of years: really good, intensive contact-tracing. Probably, if anywhere near this meticulous an operation were carried out elsewhere, people would be surprised to see the chains of unsuspected pathogen transmission and “case” counts otherwise unsuspected.

    I hope that DisCon III’s reports will be useful to the medical community, as a rare example of what you find out when you really bother to do almost Taiwan-grade investigation.

  2. @Tom Becker

    NPR reports The nation’s capital is the worst place for COVID-19 infections right now.

    The article says “169 [new] cases per 100,000 people” per day. Normalize that to Discon’s attendance, 2,300, and you get 3.9 cases per 2300 people per day.

    Discon has 31 cases for a five day convention. That’s 6.2 cases per 2,300 people per day.

  3. @bill: Discon has 31 cases for a five day convention. That’s 6.2 cases per 2,300 people per day..

    More precisely, that many people had an infection event (subsequently detected via PCR or similar test) somewhere at some time (before, during, or after the convention, not necessarily physically at the convention), and also attended DisCon III.

    My wife and I stayed at the Washington Hilton, a mile down Connecticut Ave. We might have gotten asymptomatically infected there, or going to/from the Omni. We might have gotten asymptomatically infected before con. We might gotten been asymptomatically infected the day of our return, e.g., while shopping at the local Safeway Store, where unlike at the Omni Shoreham some folks are unvaxed. But since not everyone gets PCR-screened all the time, everywhere, we lack the full picture. I personally suspect that we ran a lower profile at the Omni than we do around town at home. (To be clear: I’m not saying we got asymptomatically infected. I’m saying we could have been, and without a test within the right window, wouldn’t know.)

    Stats is hard. Those of us learning it for degree purposes learn at least a few tricks about dealing with confounders, Simpson’s Paradox, the problem of data that’s missing because nobody looked, survivorship bias, and all the rest of those things.

    Meanwhile, there’s an apparent tendency for fandom to see risk because of high-quality, plentiful information, and forget that other scenarios, elsewhere aren’t necessarily safer because nobody bothered to study them.

  4. Rick Moen says More precisely, that many people had an infection event (subsequently detected via PCR or similar test) somewhere at some time (before, during, or after the convention, not necessarily physically at the convention), and also attended DisCon III.

    I’m going to repeat what I said before. It’s hard to actually say that all of those infections occurred at the Con. it’s at least likely that some, if not most, of those infections occurred prior to the Con and just became full-blown there.

  5. @bill: DisCon III is reporting different numbers than yours. I can’t say which numbers are right. They might all be right, but using different methodologies. I just linked to the NPR article because it is noteworthy that Washington DC is having a tough time now.

  6. I’m surprised DisCon III wrote this (ETA: I mean, about the Biz Mtg):

    DisCon III encourages all attendees to act as though they were exposed, and we especially encourage this of anyone who attended a Business Meeting, as a disproportionate number of cases occurred among participants there.

    Five people mentioned the Business Meeting, but a lot more mentioning the Dealer Room and Art Show. (I didn’t check over panels/events for frequency.) Granted, the Dealer Room was large/spread out, but it had low ceilings and who knows what the air flow was like, plus several dealers got sick.

    I shopped at Kobee’s (Larry Smith Bookseller) and one of them was taking a drink break while I was in line. I’m not criticizing, just mentioning, because of course dealers stuck there for hours will have to remove their masks for a quick drink break, etc.

    Anway, I hope everyone with COVID-19 has a mild case and recovers quickly!!!

    RELATED: I finally got a a rapid antigen test (negative) and a PCR test (hopefully results tomorrow). Tracking down a place to get tested was frustrating. Many places were closed 24th-26th, I found few/no appointment slots on other days, some stores were out of at-home tests (not what I wanted anyway), etc. Gah. The doctor was great and reassured me that I shouldn’t freak out if my test was positive (my wording, not his). Thankfully, he administered the swabs, not me.

    Be well, Filers (and everyone)! Sorry to ramble a bit.

  7. The rapid antigen test are considered rather unreliable. My personal care attendant did one yesterday did tested positive so she got an appointment at her health care provider to see a PCP there. The NP she saw there diagnosed her as having the flu instead but ordered the overnight test which came back negative today. (She sent me a jpeg of her results.) She’s out for three days or so while recovers from that flu. And yes the NP lectured her on the unreliability of the rapid test as of course she was freaked out by that test.

  8. To follow up on my previous comment, I just got my PCR results via e-mail – COVID not detected.

  9. That’s good news, Kendall!

    This news has prompted me to finally take advantage of Colorado’s “Rapid-at-Home” program for getting free rapid tests into the hands of people who need them. My husband will be attending a convention in late January, and the DisConIII positive cases (the reporting of which I join others in appreciating) have been sobering enough for me to really think about the risk and what we’d might like to do about it, which will certainly include testing several days after he comes home.

    To be sure, he runs more risk from the airplane flights than the con, this being much smaller than any WorldCon – I hear it’s more on the order of an invite-only house con – but nevertheless I want to be prepared.

    On the other hand, none of this has dissuaded me from registering for ChiCon8. It’ll be my first time at WorldCon in, ooh, a long time, and an easy train-ride from the Denver area, and hopefully there will be more good news by then in terms of medical responses to covid if not also good news in terms of covid itself.

  10. None of the reported symptoms in these emails sounds worse than a cold (thank goodness).

    If you had never heard of covid, and read these reports, you’d think “What’s the big deal? Bog standard con crud.”

  11. @bill: this is true. Of course, the point of contact tracing is to track all infections, not just the serious ones. Also note that Discon was requiring masks and proof of vaccination, and the really vulnerable people probably did not attend. But even standard con crud can be dangerous: that’s probably what killed Jerry Pournelle.

  12. Con crud (in Pournelle’s case, influenza), like Covid, is dangerous to people who shared Jerry’s condition: 84, cancer survivor, stroke survivor, generally not in good health.

    But my point was that Covid should not keep us from living like we used to. Go to cons, see people. If your personal situation says otherwise, then use good sense. Given that obesity is a Covid comorbidity, one might expect the attendees of an SF convention to skew towards high-risk. But Discon came and went, and the predictions that have been made here and elsewhere about mass gatherings did not come to pass.

  13. Discon ran a very safe convention with a strict Covid policy in the middle of the outbreak of a new variant, and nothing very bad has come out of that so far. One might argue from this that the precautions were unnecessary, or with equal validity that the precautions worked. As an experiment, it lacks a proper control. There have been other conventions with more relaxed policies, but as far as I know none of them have tried to do any contact tracing at all

  14. @bill: It is to be hoped that you are correct.

    As I’m sure you know, one difference of kind between conventional (pun intended) con crud and a current-era COVID infection is that, even with blessedly mild symptoms (or in some cases, none) in all the documented DisCon III “cases”, is that the attendee could be the index case who passed the pathogen along to a immunosenescent person (the proverbial “killing grandma” scenario), to an immunosuppressed person (e.g., the two people I know going through chemotherapy), to someone under age 5, or to someone otherwise isn’t vaccination-protected — and those people may then have serious disease. So, unlike con crud ,that is not likely to produce more-severe results in the con-goer’s family and friends (etc.), COVID-19 really could.

    Prior waves were, if I remember correctly, were observed to produce more-severe cases (typically) late in case history, i.e., respiratory distress system (sometimes) developed later, and (again, if I remember correctly) typically after the patient cleared the pathogen, as sequelae (mast cells going crazy and generating cytokine storms, etc.) rather than as direct effects of infection. One reason I’ve been carefully watching the scientific coverage is to see if things turned darker (for such cases), as the wave continued. So far, apparently no(?), but it bears some caution.

    So, I’m not at all saying you’re incorrect in the bit about “sounds worse than a cold (thank goodness)”. It’s so far looking that way, from data provided — and yes, thank goodness and hallelujah. My only caution is that aspects such as those I mentioned could change the picture for some others (secondary infectees) if not for the people being tracked.

    @Jim Janney: What you said. We have data because we looked for it for a change.

  15. @bill, sorry, I meant to add: Also in the anxiety closet, as it isn’t with con crud, is the possibility of “long COVID” cases. We don’t know yet how common this will be with Omicron (if it’s still a thing), but it properly sabotages the patient’s life for quite a while, and is (or at least has been) real.

    My family of three has reason to think we all got a case of mild COVID in January 2020. For two of us, it seemed like a seasonal head cold. One of us also developed anosmia (loss of a sense of smell) for some weeks, which, in the absence of available testing, was at the time about the best thing available to support positive differential diagnosis of mild COVID-19 instead of some other respiratory ailment. That family member subsequently went through “long COVID” sequelae for months afterwards. (Happily, we’re now fine.)

    Again, not objecting to what you said, just outlining significant edge-case differences.

  16. @Rick, thank you for mentioning “long COVID”. The continued down-playing of that in the media and by proponents of “We have to go back to normal!!!!” amounts to a rather depressing extension of ableism-as-usual.

    It is already important to me to avoid catching and spreading a cold or a flu, because down the chain could be someone it kills; but it is even more important to avoid catching and spreading COVID, because of that but additionally because anyone, even with a “mild” case, could draw that unlucky number and wind up with long-term complications that prevent their ever being able to “live as they used to” again. Which would be a shitty price for my insistence on “living as I used to” right now (which, no guarantees I could, considering I too might draw that unlucky Long COVID number).

  17. @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    It is already important to me to avoid catching and spreading a cold or a flu,

    Did you attend conventions up through 2019?

  18. @bill:

    Did you attend conventions up through 2019?

    One of the great things about being an SFF fan is that you can give your imagination exercise imagining a culture in which that’s a polite question.

    I think @Nicole’s meaning will be obvious if you go back and re-read the full sentence. Meanwhile, I’m recalling all the ancillary-smoffing I’ve heard and participated in about the problem of con crud, and an overall consensus that the biggest risk factor was (1) buffets and shared serving utensils, such as one found in con suites, combined with (2) far too many attendees who failed to wash their bleepity-bleep hands.

    Anecdata: Years ago, my wife Deirdre swore off grabbing food from convention party and con suite bowls, and stopped getting con crud. For my part, I made sure I always, without exception, washed my hands before eating or touching my face, and I stopped getting it, too.

    My own suspicion is that a large portion of con crud was neither colds nor flu but rather norovirus infection — the scourge of cruise ships and the reason they have hand sanitiser stands everywhere and insist that passengers use them. (Washing hands is better.)

  19. ” . . . imagining a culture in which that’s a polite question.”
    I can see why you’d suggest that the question wasn’t polite. OTOH, I didn’t find her statement that anyone who wants to go back to normal, i.e., me, is ableist to be all that well-mannered either.

  20. bill: her statement that anyone who wants to go back to normal, i.e., me, is ableist

    There’s a difference between wanting things to go back to normal (I know very few people who don’t want that) and thinking that having things to go back to normal is a reasonable expectation right now. The latter is indeed an ableist expectation. If that offends you, well.

  21. bill:

    “But my point was that Covid should not keep us from living like we used to.”

    With friends and family in the health care here in Sweden, it’s mostly that I worry about. Too many doctors or nurses sick at the same time would wreck total havoc. And they are already overburdened with covid patients (as if they weren’t over burdened before after 30 years of cut downs).

    So even as triple-vaccinated, I don’t really live like I used to, because I want to put less strain on healthcare. That means also avoiding other activities like skiing and ice-skating as that would risk broken legs or so.

    If it weren’t for that, I’d agree with you. Myself, I think the solution to the pandemic isn’t more lockdowns and restrictions, but to scale up healthcare so it can handle an additional endemic disease.

  22. @JJ — if the results of holding a Worldcon in the midst of a pandemic, in a city which was apparently hit worse than most, were significantly different than any other Worldcon (i.e., a couple dozen cases of what is equivalent to the common cold), I would think your argument has merit.

    @Hampus — if you are triple vaccinated (and didn’t you have Covid and recover?), then your antibody status is such that the odds of you getting sick enough from Covid that you would be a burden on the health care system are comparable to the odds that you would have gotten similarly sick from influenza or another respiratory disease pre-2020. If you didn’t cloister yourself then, there’s no reason you should now.

  23. If it weren’t for that, I’d agree with you. Myself, I think the solution to the pandemic isn’t more lockdowns and restrictions, but to scale up healthcare so it can handle an additional endemic disease.

    The answer is probably “both”.

    But it’s a lot quicker (and more effective) to institute restrictions and mandates to prevent people from getting sick than it is is to find (or train) health care professionals to take care of people who are already sick. The latter could take years.

  24. bill: if the results of holding a Worldcon in the midst of a pandemic, in a city which was apparently hit worse than most, were significantly different than any other Worldcon (i.e., a couple dozen cases of what is equivalent to the common cold), I would think your argument has merit.

    If the restrictions adhered to for DisCon III were being adhered to everywhere in the U.S. (and in the world), I might think your argument has merit.

    But trying to use DisCon III as an exemplar of how things are being done everywhere else, and saying that therefore everywhere else is equivalent to DisCon III, is just silly.

  25. @JJ –

    There’s a difference between wanting things to go back to normal (I know very few people who don’t want that) and thinking that having things to go back to normal is a reasonable expectation right now.

    Precisely this.

    And I was referring to yet again a third thing, which is insisting that things go “back to normal” while explicitly downplaying the impact of long COVID. That’s ableist, all right. Not to mention utterly asinine in a country where there’s practically no safety net for those whom COVID renders too disabled to work the job that was their only source of health insurance.

    Which is of a piece with the expectation that the elderly and otherwise medically vulnerable simply accept their imminent demise with grace, as a noble sacrifice on the altar of But The Economy and We Must Return To Normal. Explicit statements to that effect were made in early 2020 (I don’t need to tell you which U.S. party was making them), and that expectation really hasn’t gone away since.

  26. bill:

    I have had Covid twice actually, nine months in between (before vaccinating) and also have friends who have gotten Covid after been vaccinated three times, so I see following recommendations more as helping to lessen the risk of a quicker spread than being worried about my own health.

    Right now, our hospitals have full emergency rooms in Stockholm. We are at maybe 25% of previous peak in intensive care and 20% for hospitalisations, so situation is much better than last year, but on the other hand we have lots more people who have waited too long for other health issues that are getting serious, we have had continued cutdowns on healthcare that is now less prepared than at start of pandemic and we have doctors and nurses who are reaching their limits and quitting.

    So I will follow the recommendations to lessen spread to others and try to avoid physical risks. Here in Sweden, that doesn’t mean “cloistering yourself”. It only means meeting fewer people, preferably outside, a bit less often and at staying at a bit of distance.

    Our goal is not to stop infections. It is to slow down spread so healthcare can cope.

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