At least seven people have died in connection with a coronavirus outbreak that continues to sick people in Maine after aheld over the summer that it violated state virus guidelines, public health authorities said. None of the seven deceased people attended the wedding, CBS affiliate WABI said.
The August wedding reception at Millinocket’s Big Moose Inn is linked to more than 175 confirmed cases of the virus, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
Maine authorities have identified overlaps between the wedding reception and outbreaks elsewhere in the state. An employee of the York County Jail attended the wedding, Maine CDC officials said. Maine health officials also said that an outbreak at a Madison rehabilitation center, which is the site of six of seven deaths, is linked to marriage because a facility employee lives in the same family as a person who attended. .
Cases of the virus resulting from marriage have spanned hundreds of miles in a state that had largely controlled the spread of the coronavirus over the summer. Maine has reported fewer than 5,000 cases of the virus in total since March.
But the growing number of marriage-related cases, which passed state guidelines of 50 people or fewer at indoor meetings, could undo some of that progress if it continues to grow. Authorities said more than 65 people attended the wedding.
The six people from the Madison rehabilitation facility who died were all residents of that facility and none of them attended the wedding reception, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC.
“Maine CDC is concerned about where we are, and I’m asking everyone else to share that concern. COVID-19, right now, isn’t on the other side of the fence. It’s on our yards,” Shah said. “The gains Maine has made against COVID-19 are what could, and unfortunately, can be wiped out.”
The wedding was also officiated by Pastor Todd Bell of Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford. The Maine CDC is currently investigating to determine if an outbreak in the church is linked to the outbreak of the marriage. That outbreak made 10 people sick, Shah said.
Calvary Baptist Church released a statement Tuesday stating that “a number of Calvary Baptist Church members attended” the wedding reception. The statement says the church is taking precautions to limit the spread of the virus and will defend its right to continue to hold services.
“Calvary Baptist Church has the legal right to assemble. The authority of a local Christian church, Jewish synagogue or Muslim mosque to assemble for their respective religious services is a time-honored part of our nation’s history since its inception. “, the statement said. “These religious activities are also fully protected by the First Amendment to our US Constitution.”
Bell has been critical of the government’s attempts to control the coronavirus, and videos show he held reports without the use of social distancing. He hired a nationally known lawyer for the defense of the religious rights of churches. Neither Bell nor the attorney working with the church, David Gibbs of Florida, personally responded to a request for comment Tuesday.
Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said the agency’s investigations suggest “multiple potential transmission points related to the wedding and the Aug.7 reception.” The agency is working to limit the spread of the virus and support those affected by it, he said.
Shah said the state’s percentage positivity rate has risen to 0.63 percent in the past seven days. At one point, the rate was less than half a percentage point. The rate remains well below the national average of about 5 percent, Shah said.
“The trends we’ve seen over the past two weeks tell us that things are either getting worse or not getting better,” said Shah, WABI reported. “We ask everyone that they can do their part. Even though there were positive signs on the horizon, low hospitalization rates, generally favorable levels of testing, there are still worrying signs. What we don’t want to happen is that those as far as it’s about the signs take over “.