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18 family members catch COVID-19 after holiday party in Pennsylvania

Eighteen members of the same family contracted coronavirus after one of them hosted a holiday party despite showing symptoms beforehand.  

The family's nightmare began on the morning of December 26 in Milmont Park, Pennsylvania, when Darlene Reynolds, 55, woke up with a scratchy throat.  

The slight irritation couldn't have come at a worse time, as Reynolds was preparing to welcome relatives traveling in from as far as Canada the next day, she told WPVI this week. 

Reynolds apparently knew that it could be a symptom of COVID-19, so she continued monitoring herself her other signs. 

'I had no fever because I kept checking it - no fever, no fever, no fever. I said: "I'll keep a distance since I have a tiny little cough,"' she said. 

The party proceeded as planned, and soon after more family members began to fall ill from what would turn out to be a superspreader event. 

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Darlene Reynolds (left), her son Luke (right), and 16 of their relatives contracted COVID-19 after a holiday party in Milmont Park, Pennsylvania, on December 27 

Reynolds said she and her relatives didn't initially know that they had COVID-19, suspecting that it could be the flu instead. 

But when they went to get tested, coronavirus was confirmed to be the culprit.  

'My husband tested positive the next day. And then [my daughter] was getting sick and she tested positive, and my son tested positive,' Reynolds said. 

A total of 18 relatives - ranging in age from one year old to 62 - ended up testing positive for the virus, she said.  

Both her son Luke and husband Stephen developed cases so severe that they ended up in the hospital.  

Luke was discharged on Monday, Reynolds announced in a cheery Facebook post, but Stephen is still sick to come home.  

'He's headed in the right direction. He'll need oxygen when he comes home,' Reynolds' daughter, Joy Purdie, told WPVI.

Reynolds explained her family's plight in an interview with WPVI this week (pictured)

Darlene's son Luke is seen in the hospital before he was discharged on Monday

Making matters worse, Stephen's business, Mini Movers, has been unable to take on jobs after its truck broke down - leaving the family without income to cover hospital bills. 

But the family received a helping hand when a woman named Lisa Riggin caught wind of their story on Facebook and started asking other members of the small community to join her in providing financial support.   

Lisa Riggin (pictured) set up Venmo and PayPal accounts which have so far raised $4,000 for the Reynolds family

Riggin set up Venmo and PayPal accounts which have so far raised $4,000 for the cause.  

'The truck's been down for a month and they haven't had income and I just don't want to see them lose their home or their business,' Riggin told WPVI.  

'People are donating, not as much as I would like, but people are responding. We had a guy last night who donated $500. He doesn't even know me or her.' 

The Reynolds' family story came to light as America's recent devastating surge in coronavirus cases - which experts say was fueled by holiday travel and gatherings - appears to be tapering off slightly. 

As of midday Tuesday, more than 24 million cases and 399,008 deaths have been confirmed around the US. Of those, 777,186 cases and 19,467 deaths came from Pennsylvania, according to the state health department. 

As of midday Tuesday, more than 24 million cases and 399,008 deaths have been confirmed around the US. Of those, 777,186 cases and 19,467 deaths came from Pennsylvania, according to the state health department

Nearly every state has seen a fall in the number of people testing positive in the last seven days aside from Maine, South Carolina and Virginia, which are all on the rise. Three states - Delaware, New Jersey and Texas - report no changes.

Daily new cases have also fallen from a peak of 283,204 on January 8 to 137,885 on Tuesday, January 19 - a 51 percent drop in 11 days. The seven-day rolling average of 200,407 is the lowest that figure has been since the new year.

However, Dr Anthony Fauci has warned that masks and social distancing aren't going anywhere any time soon and that the nation may have to prepare for the fact that COVID-19 is here to stay.

'We have to make that as a possibility. We've got to be prepared for that,' said Fauci told The National Desk on Tuesday.

'Right now we're fortunate enough to have a vaccine that is extremely efficacious for the strain that now is circulating in our own country. We may need to make modifications, as new strains that are different come in.'

The nation's top infectious disease expert says normalcy may only occur when the majority of the country is vaccinated.

'When we get the country to be 70 percent to 85 percent vaccinated, and we get this blanket or umbrella of herd immunity so that the level of virus is so low in society that it's not really a threat to anybody, then we can start coming down on the stringency of the public health measures,' Fauci said.

'Bottom line is that if you get vaccinated, you can't throw away the masks, because you could be infected and conceivably infect others.'

Just 14.7 million Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning, and only about 54 percent of vaccine doses distributed to states have been administered to people, according to data from Bloomberg. 

Nearly every state has seen a decline in the number of people testing positive in the last seven days. John Hopkins say of this graph: 'The greener the background, the bigger the downward trend of new cases in this state. The redder the background, the bigger the upward trend of new cases in this state'

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