Seven people have died since becoming infected with the novel coronavirus in connection to an outbreak at a Maine wedding in early August at which guests flouted social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines, state health officials said.
The wedding and reception held at the Big Moose Inn outside Millinocket on Aug. 7 is linked to at least 176 reported coronavirus infections, including the two additional deaths tallied Tuesday, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said in a news briefing.
Six of the people who died of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, were residents of Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison.
None of those who died attended the wedding events, Shah said, an indication of “how virulent the disease can be and how far-reaching the effects can be.”
The Millinocket wedding is not the only rule-defying celebration linked to a growing number of cases, as contact tracers and public health officials across the country continue to track down infections that stemmed from a spree of summer “super-spreader” gatherings.
“The virus favors gatherings,” Shah said. “It does not distinguish between happy events, like a wedding celebration, or a sad farewell, like funerals. It is everywhere.”
While Shah credited the state’s low hospitalization rates, he remarked that the spread of the virus in the state was disturbingly ubiquitous. The health official said residents should not assume that the virus has not reached their community, as it’s already probably there.
“I’m concerned about where we are,” Shah said. “Maine CDC is concerned about where we are, and I’m asking everyone else to share in that concern.”
The church of the pastor who officiated the ceremony, Calvary Baptist Church, issued a statement Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, that said church members attended the wedding reception. The statement goes on to defend the church’s legal right to continue hosting in-person services.
When asked about the pastor’s comment, Shah said the agency was not aware of church members in attendance at the reception but would look into it.
Ten known infections have been traced to the church, but ongoing epidemiological investigations have not confirmed a connection between the outbreaks associated with the wedding and the church, Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long told The Post.