An indoor wedding and reception in Maine last month resulted in at least 147 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state, including three deaths, state health officials said.
The growing outbreak came after about 65 guests attended the Aug. 7 wedding in Millinocket, Maine. Just 10 days later, two dozen people directly associated with the event tested positive for the virus, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
As of Sunday, additional confirmed cases linked to the wedding included 19 at the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, Maine, where a member of a wedding guest’s household worked, Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long told HuffPost. The nursing home is about 100 miles southwest of the Big Moose Inn, where the wedding reception took place.
The event was also linked to a 72-case outbreak at the York County Jail, southwest of Portland, Maine, Long said.
A jail staff member attended both the wedding and reception and was one of the first people at the jail to test positive for the virus, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah told a news conference Thursday. Inmates made up the majority of those infected with the virus at the jail, followed by staff members and their families, Shah said.
The three people who died from the virus did not attend the wedding or reception, Long said.
The state CDC continued to investigate whether an outbreak at the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, Maine, was also connected to the Millinocket event. The church’s pastor, Todd Bell, officiated the wedding at a Millinocket church and reportedly admitted to his congregation last week that he was at the wedding.
“I went to the wedding. I officiated the wedding. It was a beautiful wedding,” Bell said, according to News Center Maine. “Six families from our church went there. We never expected to get COVID. Nobody expected to experience the things that happened because you went to a beautiful thing like that.”
The Big Moose Inn acknowledged in a statement that it made mistakes and received a citation from the state for “some infractions” related to the Aug. 7 event, including allowing more than 50 people in one room at a time.
“Our interpretation was that we could take a wedding party of more than 50 persons and split them between two rooms as long as it didn’t exceed our total capacity or a specific room’s capacity,” the inn said. Instead, the hotel said guests exceeded the capacity by gathering in one of two rooms provided to them.
“While we cannot be sure the virus was fully spread at our facility, we know that there are things that we can be doing better. We have given the Maine CDC our word, and we are giving our community and guests that same word that we will do ― and are doing ― better,” the inn said.
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