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Fifth COVID-19 death associated with Maine wedding

A fifth coronavirus-related death has been linked to a rural Maine wedding held early last month, health officials say.

A fourth resident of the Maplecrest Rehabilitation Center in Madison has died of the virus – the fifth person associated with the outbreak prompted by the wedding, which was held near Millinocket, Maine on August 7, who died, reports NBC 10 Boston.

The death was announced by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Monday, which says the total number of cases brought by the event now stands at 176.

“In a small community like Madison, knowing you have loved ones who either live or work on Maplecrest makes you worry about these people,” Steve Austin, who manages a Facebook page that connects people in the area with different types of help during the pandemic, the news station told.

Austin is planning a car parade that runs near Maplecrest Friday to show people there people “they are not alone … they are not just being left there by themselves without support,”

; he said.

The wedding, held at Tri-Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket and at the Big Moose Inn on Millinocket Lake, is the source of the state’s largest outbreak of the pandemic to date.

62 people attended the wedding reception at the inn, bringing the total number of people at the facility that day between 104 and 109 – significantly higher than the 80-person limit set under a state license, officials have said.

Apart from the Maplecrest Rehabilitation Center, cases have also been found linked to the wedding at York County Jail in Alfred, where at least 70 coronavirus cases have been recorded, according to the Maine CDC.

The wedding was held 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 wedding outbreak.

Calvary Baptist Church on Tuesday issued a statement saying “a number of members of Calvary Baptist Church attended” the wedding reception. The statement said the church was taking steps to limit the spread of the virus and would defend its right to continue holding services.

Calvary Baptist Church has a legal right to meet. The authority of a local Christian church, a Jewish synagogue or a Muslim mosque to gather for their respective religious services has been a well-known part of our nation’s history since its inception, ”the statement said. “These religious activities are also fully protected during the first amendment of our U.S. Constitution.”

Bell has been critical of the government’s attempts to control the coronavirus, and videos show he has had services without the use of social distance. He hired a lawyer known nationally to defend the religious rights of churches. Neither Bell nor Gibbs responded to a request Tuesday for comment from the Associated Press.

Associated Press material was used in this report.

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