The cluster of coronavirus infections originating from the Big Moose Inn outside Millinocket on Aug. 7 continues to grow in Maine, state health officials said after guests violated the Social Distance and Mask Guidelines. Now people unrelated to the party have died, including six residents of the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said in a news briefing Tuesday.
State officials issued an “imminent health hazard” referral last month to the premises, whose operators acknowledged in a statement that they “made a mistake in the interpretation”
The Millinocket wedding is not the only rule-challenging party linked to a growing number of cases, as contact trackers and public health officials continue to track infections stemming from this summer’s “superspreader” collections, including a motorcycle rally in South Dakota and a choir rehearsal in Washington .
Non-participant exposure can multiply exponentially, especially if participants live or work in communities where social distancing and masking are not enforced, said Michael Small, a professor at the University of Western Australia who has studied events in super-scatterers.
“These super-spreaders can be bad without being tied down,” Small told The Washington Post.
Earlier this year, a management conference for biotechnology company Biogen in Boston made headlines when infections were initially tracked among participants across several states. Months later, researchers sequenced genetic defects in the virus that linked the outbreak to infections among Boston’s homeless population.
The outbreak among business leaders that led to infections among the homeless is a reminder of how interconnected social networks can be and causes further spread of the virus, says Thomas Tsai, assistant professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, The Post.
“You can not just think of these individuals or even clusters alone. They are kind of clusters of clusters, ”Tsai said.
Even where communities may not seem as intertwined as in a sparsely populated city in Maine, coronavirus can strike.
“It’s a real warning story that even in a relatively rural Maine area, there was still fuel for a fire,” exclaimed Tsai.
Between 10 and 20 percent of infected people are responsible for 80 percent of the spread of coronavirus, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical director of the World Health Organization’s health contingency program, said at a news briefing Thursday.
Maine health officials have continued to track down several outbreaks and investigate whether some clusters are related to each other, Shah said.
“The virus favors collections,” Shah said. “It does not distinguish between happy events such as a wedding party or a sad farewell such as funerals. It’s everywhere. ”
Shah said the spread of the virus beyond those who attended the wedding and killed people unrelated to the collection 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 unsettlingly ubiquitous. He said residents should not assume that the virus has not reached their community as it is 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 join in that concern.”
The state agency confirmed to The Post that the pastor officiating the wedding, Todd Bell, is preaching at Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, which has had 10 cases traced to it. Bell has criticized coronavirus restrictions, local media reported. He could not be reached for comment.
“What he’s basically saying to the state of Maine is that rules do not apply to us,” Bangathy resident Kathy Day said of Bell.
The Millinocket native told The Post that she does not believe anyone attending the wedding intended to cause the chaos that has been going on since the celebration. But, Day said, infections could be prevented. As someone who studied to be a contact tracker, Day said she wished there could be a map representing the spread of the virus from the one event in her condition.
“I think it would be an extremely interesting picture for people to be able to understand that when you spread it to a person, unless they isolate themselves, it has the potential to do something exactly like what happened in this. outbreak, ”Day said. “It just keeps going.”