The coronavirus outbreak associated with an Aug. 7 wedding and reception in the Katahdin area has now sickened at least 60 people and contributed to two other secondary outbreaks at a rehabilitation center in Madison and the York County Jail, according to state health officials.
A guest of the wedding works at the York County Jail and was later found to have the virus, according to Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Eighteen people at the jail — seven inmates, nine staff members and two York County government employees — have now tested positive, Shah said.
The staff member who attended the Aug. 7 wedding was among the first people to test positive at the jail, but Maine CDC investigators have not determined whether that person introduced the virus to the facility.
Another guest of the wedding reportedly passed the virus to a parent, who then passed it on to one of their other children who works at Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison. Four residents and one other employee of the 58-bed center have now been infected with COVID-19, Shah said on Tuesday. While the state is considering the cases at Maplecrest as their own outbreak, it is also including them in the 60 total cases officially attributed to the wedding.
The nature of the outbreak tied to the Katahdin-area wedding and the ripple effects show how quickly COVID-19 can spread, and how far, Shah said. It also shows how the coronavirus can find its way into closed-off facilities such as nursing homes and jails, where some of the nation’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks have happened since the start of the pandemic. Maine saw a number of nursing home outbreaks early on in the pandemic, but they have become less common in recent months.
“Even if those communities are miles apart, separated by multiple counties in between, what we’ve learned about COVID-19 is that it can be the uninvited guest at every single wedding party or event in Maine,” Shah said.
Of the 60 people infected, 22 were wedding guests, 14 were close contacts of guests and 24 were infected after coming into close contact with the 14 secondary cases.
Two of those infected are employees of the Big Moose Inn, the Millinocket Lake wedding venue that hosted the reception of about 65 guests.
The inn received an “imminent health hazard” citation from the Maine CDC last week for violating the state’s 50-person limit on indoor gatherings. The state agency also found the venue failed to ensure a six-foot distance between customers and staff and failed to ask customers for their contact information in the event of an outbreak, according to a copy of the citation.
Based on the Maine CDC investigation of the outbreak, it does not appear that many of the people who attended the reception were wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Shah said.
The state has not decided whether to issue additional citations to the wedding venue, Tri County Baptist Church in East Millinocket, or to the couple that organized the wedding, according to Shah. He has not identified the couple.
But on Tuesday, he confirmed another York County connection with the Millinocket-area wedding. The wedding officiant came from the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford.
Pastor Todd Bell, who is named on the church’s website, did not respond to requests for comment from the Bangor Daily News this week.
York County is dealing with an additional outbreak of four cases involving three county fire departments. But Shah said CDC investigators have not linked the wedding officiant with the outbreak involving the fire departments.