A wedding in Maine has resulted in one death and 60 positive cases as a coronavirus outbreak spreads in the weeks following the ceremony. A rehabilitation center and jail are two of the hotspots cropping up after community spread from the wedding brought the virus to those who never even attended. 

A wedding turns dangerous 

The wedding reception was held on August 7th in Millinocket, Maine. The ceremony was held at the Tri-Town Baptist Church and guests moved to the Big Moose Inn for a reception immediately after. 65 people attended the festivities. In the 2.5 weeks since the wedding, cases have been popping up with horrifying frequency. The breakdown of infections was described by Dr. Nirav Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. MSN summed up the information: 

  • “22 are primary cases, meaning they’re among people who attended the wedding or the reception.
  • 14 are secondary, meaning they’re among close contacts of people who attended the wedding or the reception.
  • 24 are tertiary, meaning they’re among close contacts of people who are secondary contacts.”

Soon, the virus moved beyond wedding guests and into the surrounding communities

Dr. Shah described how quickly cases spread beyond wedding guests. A guest who attended the wedding infected a parent, who in turn infected their other child, a worker at Maplecrest Rehabilitation Center in Madison over 100 miles away. The rehab center worker then infected four residents and one other staff member. A York County Jail worker also attended the wedding and was infected. From there, 18 cases are associated with the worker, with infected people at both the jail and York County Sheriff’s Office. The jail is 220 miles away from the epicenter in Millinocket. 

A ‘restaurant-quality’ example 

Dr. Shah talked about how the Maine outbreak is a learning experience and a grim reminder for residents who don’t realize how quickly the virus spreads. At a press conference Tuesday, Shah said, “These recent examples are restaurant-quality pieces of information that demonstrate how aggressive and how opportunistic this virus is. And how quickly it can move from one community to another, even if those communities are miles apart separated by multiple counties in between. What we’ve learned about COVID-19 is it can be the uninvited guest at every single wedding, party, or event in Maine. The virus is where we are and then it comes home with us.”

The virus is like a tube of glitter

Shah also said, “What we are dealing with is a giant tube of glitter. You open a tube of glitter in your basement then two weeks later you are in the attic and all you find is glitter and have no idea how it got there. That’s what Covid-19 is like. You open up glitter in Millinocket and next thing you know you are finding traces of it at a jail complex in York County. It’s just emblematic of how quickly, silently and efficiently it can spread.”

One person has died

Last Friday, Millinocket Regional Hospital CEO Robert Peterson shared a sad update on one patient who was infected after the wedding; “We are sorry to share that this patient passed away early this afternoon. Our thoughts and sympathies are with her family as they cope with this difficult loss.” The person who died from the virus did not attend the wedding, and was infected through community spread.

Big Moose Inn is in big trouble

In the wake of the virus spread, the Maine CDC issued an imminent public health hazard citation to the Big Moose Inn. The reception with 65 attendees violated the Maine’s COVID-19 precautions which prohibits public gatherings in indoor spaces of more than 50 people. Maine is a relatively rural state and thus far reports 4,389 cases and 139 deaths. 

Next steps and precautions:

CNN reports the next steps for the outbreak and Maine residents, “The agency is conducting contact tracing for guests, staff and people who might have had close contact with individuals with confirmed cases. They encourage anyone who attended the event and has symptoms to contact their health care provider.”

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