Was January’s ‘Sundance Plague’ really the coronavirus?

Dozens of Sundance Film Festival attendees fell ill on the heels of the star-studded event — in what one expert says may have been early, un-diagnosed coronavirus cases, according to report.

The festival-goers — including actors, writers and industry honchos — were struck by a fever, cough and shortness of breath after packed theater screenings in late January, according to hollywoodreporter.com

“We all had the same symptoms, all had the cough, all had trouble breathing at night,” said indie actress Ashley Jackson, who attended the festival in Park City, Utah on Jan. 27. “We were all just miserable for three to four weeks.”

She added, “I started texting other people who had been at Sundance, and one said, ‘Yo, we just started calling it the Sundance Plague,’ ” said Jackson. “And then I see all these coronavirus stories, and I was like, ‘Whoa.’ ”

Of the dozen of festival-goers interviewed by the outlet, nearly all knew of others who suffered from a sickness similar to theirs after attending.

In one case, an unnamed movie star became “gravely ill” — and in another a member of the media was “barely functional.”

“[I] was as sick as I’ve ever been for two weeks. Only really felt 100 percent by the weekend of the Oscars,” said Franklin Leonard, founder of the industry publication Black List.


Guests enjoy HBO’s McMillions Experience at The 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

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The 20 Kick Off Premiere Party Celebrating “Summertime.”

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The Doc Party during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

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Paige McGarvin, a 23-year-old actress, said her mystery illness was eventually diagnosed as “flu-like symptoms and exacerbated asthma” in early February.

“I have never felt more miserable. I couldn’t open my eyes. I put something over my face, and I couldn’t even sleep. My body just hurt,” she said. “I [could] barely breathe when I cough; it’s like I can’t stop coughing enough to inhale,” she said.

Dean Hart, a microbiologist and expert in virus transmission, says there’s a high likelihood the coronavirus swept through the internationally renowned festival because the lockdown in Wuhan, China — ground zero for the outbreak — didn’t happen until after the event had started.

“Logic dictates that they most probably did have it,” Hart said. “With Sundance, you’ve got the perfect formula for this virus to really go to town and contaminate everybody.”

The first US case of COVID-19 was confirmed Jan. 21 in Washington state, two days before the festival began.

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