Update: As of Friday, Aug. 28, the Big Moose Inn has had its license reinstated. Read more here.
The state has now suspended the license of the inn on Millinocket Lake that hosted an Aug. 7 wedding reception connected to a COVID-19 outbreak that has spread to at least 87 people.
Last week, the state issued an “imminent health hazard” citation to the Big Moose Inn for hosting the reception, which was attended by around 65 people despite a state restriction limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people. The citation was an official notice that the inn violated one or more state health rules, and it asked the inn’s operators to comply going forward.
But after a recent inspection found the inn was still violating restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the state temporarily suspended its license, according to Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Representatives from Maine DHHS have also advised the business about how it can come back into compliance with state rules, Lambrew said. The suspension is in effect for 30 days unless retracted by the state or modified by a court order.
On Wednesday, the state issued the temporary suspension after finding that dining room tables were still spaced less than six feet apart and that employees were not wearing face coverings or ensuring proper social distancing, according to a copy of the notice of suspension.
A state inspector also found that the business did not have correct documentation showing that guests were following state travel restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
To help the state enforce its rules requiring that many out-of-state visitors either quarantine in one place for two weeks or present evidence that they have recently tested negative for COVID-19, lodging businesses are required to collect official state certificates, called a “certificate of compliance,” showing that the guests are following the rules as a prerequisite to their stay, according to a June 7 order from Gov. Janet Mills.
The Big Moose Inn, which is just outside Baxter State Park, includes rooms, a restaurant, cabins and a campground.
A woman who answered the phone there on Thursday afternoon called the temporary suspension “really ridiculous,” but declined to give her name or job title.
The employee, who said she was not able to stay on the phone long because she had to take another call, said the business was also canceling guests’ reservations for Thursday night and refunding their fees.
Last week, Maine DHHS found the venue had exceeded the number of people allowed inside it, 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 original citation the inn received last week.
State officials have now linked the outbreak from the Aug. 7 wedding and reception to smaller ones at a Madison rehabilitation center and the York County Jail. One woman who did not attend the wedding but was infected as part of the outbreak has died.
Investigators have now found nine cases of COVID-19 at Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, including five among residents and four among staff. They have attributed that outbreak to a guest of the wedding catching the disease and passing it to a parent, who then passed it along to another one of their children who worked at the rehab center.
There are now 18 confirmed cases at the York County Jail, among seven inmates, nine jail staff and two other county employees who work in the same building. One of the first employees to test positive in that outbreak was a guest at the Aug. 7 wedding.