A newlywed couple and at least eight other people who attended their wedding in San Francisco contracted COVID-19, even though they tied the knot on Zoom without their guests after the church was ordered to stop the proceedings, according to a report.
Saints Peter & Paul Church took precautions for the unidentified couple’s nuptials in early July by taping off rows of pews and the roughly 100 guests entered from an underground garage, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
But a city official crashed the event and ordered it to stop right as it was about to get underway, so the wedding party moved to a nearby basketball court to continue on Zoom – sans the guests, according to the outlet.
Days later, the couple and several attendees came down with the illness, two guests told the newspaper.
The city attorney had recently warned Catholic leaders to stop holding indoor events, but the church went ahead anyway and organized the ceremony, which also included a rehearsal dinner as cases of the disease surged in the region.
Those apparently exposed to the virus flew back to Nashville, Arizona and San Diego, all hotspots during the outbreak, potentially spreading it to others, The Chronicle reported.
“This is the perfect example of why public health officials have been trying to convince people of the problems with getting together in crowds,” UC Berkeley infectious disease expert John Swartzberg told the paper.
“And I would be shocked if we didn’t see this consequence. This should be the poster child in why people should take responsibility,” he added.
Saints Peter & Paul’s Pastor Gael Sullivan said the order to stop the indoor event came so close to the wedding that he tried to provide the couple and their families “a service of some kind.”
“I had said to them they had to comply with the minimum number for the service and when they showed up with more people, they agreed with sending them away,” Sullivan told the outlet.
Mike Brown, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, said it can’t monitor every activity in all 89 parishes.
“I’m certain those arrangements were not made with approval by the archdiocese,” Brown told The Chronicle, adding that no one from the wedding party had contacted the archdiocese to alert it of the ensuing infections.
Messages to the couple and their families were not returned to the newspaper.
“There were so many turns, adjustments, will the church close, will they be able to get married in this church, that it would make your head spin!” one guest wrote on Instagram a couple of days after the wedding.
“Down to the final 30 minutes before ceremony, [the bride] waiting excitedly in the bride room of the church, and the news comes in … an official from the city is here telling them they can’t get married in the church,” she wrote.
“(All the while, across the street is a huge park filled with people, not wearing masks and not social distancing, but that was OK.) This beautiful church holds over 800 … there was 80 people attending the wedding,” she added.
Three days before the event, the bride’s father emailed guests about planned safety protocols, including eliminating paper programs, blocking off pews and allowing Communion only for the couple, according to an email obtained by The Chronicle.
“For those that want to practice the strongest forms of social distancing at all times we understand that and support you,” read the guidelines “Everyone should feel free to wear a face covering at all times and to socially distance from those that are not part of your household.”
On the the eve of the wedding, he wrote in another email: “We have had another change in plans. Due to concerns with the visibility to the public of the wedding there is a change in arrival procedures. We will no longer be entering the church publicly through the main entrance.”
The pastor told The Chronicle that the plans were not made to avoid detection, but, rather, to prevent people from entering the church during the ceremony.
And on the night before the wedding, some 40 people attended the rehearsal dinner at the Harborview Restaurant and Bar, where they ate on a roof deck – but without wearing masks or social distancing, a patron who asked for anonymity told The Chronicle.
A Harborview rep said the eatery had not been told of those who became ill after the wedding.
Spokeswoman Karen Liu said her restaurant takes safety rules “very seriously,” adding that it worked with the host to assign guests to tables with members of the same household or family.
“From my observations, the guests wore masks or were sitting separately at socially distanced tables,” she said.
John Coté, a spokesman for the city attorney, declined to comment on possible sanctions against the archdiocese.