25 Investigates: 2 test positive for COVID-19 after attending party expo in Somerville

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — Two people who attended a wedding and party vendor event in Somerville on March 4 have tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, 25 Investigates has learned.

B-LIST, an event advertised as a “party for party makers,” took place at The Row Hotel at Assembly Row in Somerville. Boston 25 News has learned 330 people attended the annual event, which was organized by Whim Events.

And the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester closed Wednesday until further notice after learning two of its employees attended the Somerville event at the Row Hotel. The two library employees have not shown symptoms and both are in self-quarantine, the library said in a statement.

“While neither of our employees have shown symptoms and the risk of transmission is low, we are notifying the public out of an abundance of caution,” the library said.

Organizers of The Row event sent attendees an email Wednesday morning notifying them of the positive tests, 25 Investigates has learned.

The email said, “the people have asked to remain anonymous at this time, but we’re told their symptoms started after the B-LIST event.”

Natalie Pinney, who’s identified in the email as the co-founder of Whim Events, sent the following response to 25 Investigates’ emails and questions:

We were informed by two of our attendees that they had tested positive for COVID-19 days after our event. We took quick action to contact the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to ensure we had the correct information and most comprehensive communication plan for the rest of our guests. They confirmed that releasing specific names would be a violation of privacy law, but that the instinct to alert attendees as soon as possible was correct. We sent an email notification immediately thereafter to all attendees about the situation, and a second email shortly after to clarify that proper health departments had been notified and consulted, along with information about how to work with their doctor appropriately should they be concerned for their personal health. It was a priority for us to follow the safety and communication protocol we have been given by the CDC and the Department of Public Health for the well-being of all involved. We continue to support our partners, attendees, and colleagues through this challenging time and encourage everyone to take the necessary safety precautions as recommended by the CDC and Department of Public Health.

A spokesman for Marriott Hotels told Boston 25 News that The Row Hotel has been thoroughly sanitized and cleaned, and that none of the employees who work at the hotel have shown any symptoms.

25 Investigates spoke with a meeting attendee, who did not want to be identified, who said they have received little information beyond the email.

25 Investigates reached out the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as well as the City of Somerville.

The City of Somerville sent the following statement:

“Our Board of Health was made aware of this incident and are following up with the hotel to make sure they understand their responsibilities around proper cleaning and following up with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health."

The Row Hotel at Assembly Row sent Boston 25 News the following statement:

“We have been informed by the organizer of an event hosted at the hotel that two guests of the event have tested positive for COVID-19. We are working with the local health authorities and have taken additional steps to perform enhanced cleaning and sanitization of the hotel. We are also following all precautionary measures as recommended by the CDC, as the wellbeing of our guests, associates and community is of paramount importance.”

The state Department of Public Health sent us the following information:

  • When an individual has tested positive for COVID-19, they are first contacted by their health care provider and then have follow up contact with their local board of health, which provides the individual with the procedures for self-isolation. They are also asked to provide a list of close contacts.
  • Local Boards of Health investigate close contacts of all confirmed cases and notify those close contacts and provide them with the appropriate self-quarantine procedures.
  • If close contacts become symptomatic, they will be prioritized for testing.
  • The Department of Public Health notified the Somerville board of health.
  • The Department of Public Health has posted recommendations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which are available here: COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment.
  • Higher risk individuals (including older adults, anyone with underlying health conditions or weakened immune system, and pregnant women) should avoid large gatherings. Organizations should postpone or cancel non-essential large events and gatherings. If events cannot be cancelled, people should make adjustments to keep people safe and healthy. Full guidance is available here.