Eight retiree neighbors got infected with coronavirus and three died in a matter of weeks while they kept playing their beloved daily game of poker where they would swap stories about their grandchildren.
In a tragic turn of events, a friendly poker game among a group of retired best friends is thought to have sparked a deadly coronavirus outbreak that infected all eight and killed three.
The spread of the virus among the longtime friends, aged in their 70s to 90s, can be traced back to the last game they played on March 12 in Florida – several days before the state issued a lockdown order and banned gatherings.
The eight elderly retirees first met in South Florida casinos and formed a bond over their love of the game, before they started running their own game out of an Aventura condominium.
A friendly poker game among a group of retired best friends is thought to have sparked a deadly coronavirus outbreak that infected all eight and killed three. Beverly Glass, 84, and Fred Sands, 86, a loving couple of 20 years, spent their last days together holding hands in their hospital beds and died end of March from coronavirus after the game
The group, who would travel on cruises together and saw each other as ‘family’, met to play poker five times a week for the last 10 years where they would play over pots of less than $100.
But the March 12 game would turn out to be fatal.
The group met as normal that day, hugging and passing round cards, cash and chips while they shared stories of their grandchildren.
Just weeks after the game, three of their group have been killed and the other five infected with the killer virus.
Marcy Friedman, 94, a former New York secretary who moved to Florida to retire, helped organize the decades-long weekly games held at 7 p.m. Sunday to Thursday.
She developed breathing difficulties on March 15 and was hospitalized the following day.
Ten days later she tested positive for coronavirus and died on March 28 at Aventura Hospital.
She had underlying heart, lung and kidney conditions.
Her son Andrew Friedman told the Sun Sentinel that he had warned his mother to stop playing poker before the deadly game but she carried on because she loved playing with her best friends.
Marcy Friedman, 94, developed breathing difficulties on March 15 and was hospitalized the following day. Ten days later she tested positive for coronavirus and died on March 28
‘It was her social life,’ he said.
He also pointed out that at the time of the game, the state of Florida did not seem to be concerned about an outbreak either.
‘It wasn’t like now,’ he said. ‘Everything wasn’t shut down.’
On March 12, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases was below 200 and social distancing rules were not in place.
It was not until four days later on March 16 that President Trump issued guidance recommending gatherings be limited to just 10 people – something the group were still below the threshold of.
Big casinos such as the The Big Easy Casino and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood were still open for another week.
As of April 15, Florida has 21,367 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 524 have died.
Two of the other friends Beverly Glass, 84, and Fred Sands, 86, a loving couple of 20 years who lived in Hollywood, also started showing symptoms of the virus within a week of the game.
They were admitted into Memorial Regional Hospital and tested positive for coronavirus.
Sands died on March 27 and Glass died on March 31. They were able to spend their last days together holding hands across their hospital beds.
Glass’ daughter Lori Helitzer told the Sentinel they were ‘not a sit-at-home couple’ but were ‘movers and shakers’ that regularly went to casinos around Florida.
On March 12, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases was below 200 and social distancing rules were not in place. Big casinos such as the The Big Easy Casino and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood (above) were still open for another week
According to the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office, Sands had underlying conditions of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and tightening in the arteries and Glass had the same heart condition.
Helitzer said she too had warned the lovebirds to stop playing and stay at home but that ‘they didn’t get it’.
Harriet Molko, in her 70s, and her husband Ronald Molko, in his 80s, were also struck down with the deadly virus after the March 12 game.
Harriet said she had stopped playing at casinos earlier in the month but continued playing the game with their longtime friends.
Some of the group were still playing at The Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood at the time, she said.
Harriet began experiencing symptoms on March 15, tested positive on March 22 and was hospitalized for nine days.
She made a full recovery and was released to her home in Miami on April 2 where she learned the news of her friends’ deaths.
‘It’s just a nightmare and I’m trying to get over it,’ she told the Sentinel.
Ronald also tested positive but was not hospitalized.
The couple do not have any pre-existing conditions.
The three other friends, who have survived the virus, have not been named.
Harriet Molko said that the state health department did contact one of the friends to try to carry out contact tracing but that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health departments in Florida have not reached out to the rest of them.
‘I’m surprised they haven’t called me yet,’ Molko said.
Spring Break in Florida on February 29. It was not until March 16 that President Trump issued guidance recommending gatherings be limited to just 10 people – something the elderly group were still below the threshold of when they gathered as eight on March 12
The tragic outbreak among the group is one story among many where celebrations among families and friends have unwittingly spread the deadly virus and claimed several lives.
A 40th birthday gathering in Connecticut was dubbed ‘party zero’ last month after guests became infected and spread coronavirus across several states and around the world.
About 50 guests reportedly gathered on March 5 at a home in the wealthy suburb of Westport for a lavish buffet and celebration.
After the event, roughly half of those at the party became infected with the disease, then transmitted it to other states and the rest of the world.
According to the New York Times, guests left that evening for Johannesburg, New York City, other parts of Connecticut and the wider US.
One of the guests was a 43-year-old South African businessman who started to feel ill during his flight home. He was later diagnosed with coronavirus.
Three days after the party, one of the other guests woke up in Westport with chest pains, a fever that spiked to 104 degrees, and ‘felt like she was dying’.
Julie Endich wrote on Facebook in a lengthy post: ‘My journey started on March 8, 3 days after I attended an event with amazing friends.
‘I woke up that morning, with incredible chest pain, tightness and heaviness like someone was standing on my chest.
‘As the day went on I started to get body aches, chills, fever and headache. It hit me fast. It felt like the flu x 2!!! I couldn’t move, I was bedridden and my fevers were spiking to 104.’
On the day of the party Connecticut did not have a single recorded case of coronavirus, but as of today 10 people in the state have died with 415 infections.
Main Street in Westport, Connecticut, where a party of around 50 people saw around half the guests infected with coronavirus
A Chicago man with mild coronavirus symptoms is believed to have unintentionally been a ‘super-spreader’ triggering an outbreak that killed three people by going to a funeral, a birthday party, and a three-hour dinner.
An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chicago Department of Public Health traced an outbreak in Cook County, Illinois, which infected around 16 people from the age of 5 to 86 years old and killed three, to one man who infected others at a series of events.
The man attended several family gatherings, including a birthday party, funeral and dinner, and these people then went on to infect others as they attended church services and visited relatives in the hospital, according to the report.
The night before the funeral, patient zero shared a three-hour meal with two family members of the deceased.
At the funeral service the following day, he hugged several people and took part in a potluck dinner.
At least four of the people he is known to have hugged developed symptoms for coronavirus over the course of the next six days.
One of the four became seriously ill and was hospitalized on a ventilator and died, the report states.
Another person who was in close contact with the super-spreader at the funeral visited their sick relative with COVID-19 at the hospital and hugged them.
This individual also developed symptoms three days later.
The study, published in the federal agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for April 8 (above), traced the Cook County man’s contacts and found he could have triggered the outbreak, despite only ever showing mild symptoms of the virus
A few days after the funeral, the index case then went to a birthday party with nine family members.
At the party the group talked, hugged, and shared food for three hours.
Within seven days of the party, seven attendees had been struck down with the virus.
Two of them later died from the infection.
Two people who cared for one of the dead victims – a home care worker and a family member – both went on to show symptoms of the virus.
One individual who lived with the other victim also developed a cough.
Three of the partygoers with less severe symptoms of the virus went to a church service six days after the event, where they sat in close contact with other churchgoers for a period of time and passed the offering plate between them spreading the virus further again, according to the study.
More than 26,000 Americans have now died from coronavirus with more than 615,000 infections.