At least seven people have died in a coronavirus outbreak that continues to suck people in Maine after aheld over the summer that violated state virus guidelines, public health officials said. None of the seven people who died attended the wedding, CBS-affiliated WABI reported.
The wedding reception in August at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket 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. A York County Jail employee attended the wedding, Maine CDC officials have said. Maine health officials have also said that an outbreak at a Madison Rehabilitation Center, which is the site of six of the seven deaths, is linked to the wedding because an employee at the facility lives in the same household as a person who attended.
Viral cases stemming from the wedding have stretched over hundreds of miles in a condition that had largely controlled the spread of coronavirus through the summer. Maine has reported fewer than 5,000 cases of the virus in total since March.
But the growing number of cases related to the wedding, which exceeded state guidelines for 50 people or less at indoor gatherings, could undo some of this progress if it continues to swell. Authorities have said more than 65 people attended the wedding.
The six people from the Madison Rehabilitation Facility who died were all residents of this facility, and none of them attended the wedding reception, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC.
“The Maine CDC is concerned about where we are, and I ask everyone else to share that concern. COVID-19 is not on the other side of the fence right now. It’s in our yards,” Shah said. “The gains Maine has made against COVID-19 are the ones that could and unfortunately can be washed away.”
The wedding was also 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. This outbreak has sickened ten people, Shah said.
Calvary Baptist Church announced Tuesday that “a number of members of Calvary Baptist Church were attending” 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 an honored 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 the lawyer working for the church, David Gibbs of Florida, responded personally to a request for comment Tuesday.
Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said the agency’s investigations suggest “several potential transfer points associated with the August 7 wedding and reception.” The agency is working to limit the spread of the virus and support people affected by it, he said.
Shah said the state’s percentage positivity rate has crossed up to 0.63% for the previous seven days. At one point, the rate was less than half a percentage point. The rate remains well below the national average of approx. 5%, Shah said.
“The trends we’ve seen in the last two weeks tell us that things are either getting worse or not getting better,” Shah said, WABI reported. “We’re all asking them to do their part. Even though there were positive signs on the horizon, low hospitalization rates, generally favorable levels of testing, there are still signs that are going on. the positive. “