The cluster of coronavirus infections that originated from the Big Moose Inn outside Millinocket on Aug.7 continues to grow in Maine, state health officials said after guests broke social distancing and masking guidelines. Now people who have no ties to the party are dead, including six residents of the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, Maine CDC director Nirav Shah said at a news conference Tuesday.
Last month, state officials issued an “imminent health hazard”
Millinocket’s wedding isn’t the only rule-defying celebration linked to a growing number of cases, as contact detectors and public health officials across the country continue to track down infections resulting from summer “superspreader” gatherings , including a motorcycle rally in South Dakota and a choir in Washington.
Exposure among non-participants can multiply exponentially, especially if participants live or work in communities where social distances and the use of masks are not enforced, said Michael Small, professor at the University of Australia. westerner who studied super speaker events.
“These super speakers can be bad without limits,” Small told the Washington Post.
Earlier this year, a leadership conference for biotech company Biogen in Boston made headlines when infections were initially detected among attendees that have spread to several states. Months later, researchers sequenced the virus’s genetic errors, linking the outbreak to infections among Boston’s homeless population.
The outbreak among company executives that led to infections among homeless people is a reminder of how social networks can be interconnected, causing the virus to spread further, Thomas Tsai, an assistant professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, he told the Post.
“You can’t just think of these individuals or even just groups. They’re kind of groups of groups,” Tsai said.
Even where communities may not seem as intertwined, such as in a sparsely populated Maine city, the coronavirus can strike.
“It’s a real warning that even in a relatively rural area of Maine, there was still fuel from a fire,” Tsai said.
Between 10 and 20 percent of infected people are responsible for 80 percent of the spread of the coronavirus, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergency Program, said at a news conference Thursday.
Maine health officials have continued to monitor several outbreaks and are investigating whether any clusters are linked together, Shah said.
“The virus favors meetings,” Shah said. “It makes no distinction between happy events, such as a wedding celebration, or a sad farewell, such as a funeral. It’s everywhere “.
Shah said the spread of the virus beyond those who attended the wedding, killing people unrelated to the gathering, is an indication of “how virulent the disease can be and how far-reaching the effects can be.”
Although Shah noted the state’s low hospitalization rates, he said the spread of the virus in the state was omnipresent. He said residents shouldn’t assume the virus hasn’t reached their community, as it’s probably already there.
“I’m worried about where we are,” Shah said. “The Maine CDC is concerned about where we are and I ask everyone else to share this concern.”
The state agency confirmed to The Post that the pastor who officiated the wedding, Todd Bell, preaches at Sanford’s Calvary Baptist Church, where 10 cases have been tracked. Bell criticized the coronavirus restrictions, local media reported. He could not be reached for comment.
“What he’s basically saying to the state of Maine is that the rules don’t apply to us,” said Kathy Day, a Bangor resident, of Bell.
The Millinocket native told the Post that she doesn’t believe any of the wedding attendees intended to cause the chaos wrought by the celebration. But, Day said, the infections were preventable. As someone who studied to be a contact tracer, Day said he wished there was a map to represent the spread of the virus from that one event in his state.
“I think it would be an extremely interesting image for people to be able to understand that when it spreads to a person, unless that person isolates itself, it has the potential to do something exactly like what happened in this outbreak.” , Day said. “Keep going back and forth.”