BELFAST, Maine — Positive coronavirus cases at several Waldo County schools and a Searsport assisted-living facility are connected to the outbreak that began at the Brooks Pentecostal Church, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
That outbreak has so far spread to at least 42 people.
On Tuesday, Waldo County had 49 known active cases of the virus, according to the Maine CDC. Since the start of the pandemic in March, the county has counted 127 confirmed and probable cases.
Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said that the outbreak appears to have begun at an indoor fellowship gathering at the church that happened on the weekend of Oct. 2. Between 100 and 150 attended that gathering, where masks were available, but not routinely used, he said. The private school affiliated with the church, Lighthouse Christian Academy, has seven positive coronavirus cases out of 27 students overall.
The church has temporarily suspended services in accordance with CDC recommendations, Shah said.
Brooks Pastor M.W. Shaw took to social media Tuesday to express sadness “over the resulting sickness that has been spread by the virus.”
His church “has been following quarantine measures since before any positive tests were reported,” he said, and would continue to encourage people who feel they need testing to get it.
“Though the origins of the virus are unclear, we will be addressing all recommendations and guidelines provided to us by the CDC. Our church will be addressing our continuity of worship in a safe and orderly manner,” he added. “We understand the fear and frustration that some have felt. We are comforted at this time that there have been no hospitalizations [connected to the outbreak at his church] and, more importantly, no deaths.”
The statement is Shaw’s first public response to the outbreak.
call to the Rev. Jimmy Millikin, a visiting pastor from Oklahoma who led services and played the saxophone at the Brooks Pentecostal Church during the fellowship weekend, was answered by his wife, Shauna Millikin. She said she had also been in Maine that weekend, and that neither she nor her husband were sick. She had no comment about the outbreak.
Four other people in Waldo County who tested positive for the virus are connected to public schools. Cases have been confirmed at Captain Albert W. Stevens Elementary School and Troy A. Howard Middle School, both in Belfast, as well as Ames Elementary School in Searsmont and Mount View Elementary School in Thorndike.
Those schools have isolated cases linked to the count’s larger outbreak and haven’t spread from there, he said.
“At this time, the Maine CDC does not believe there has been transmission of COVID-19 in these four public schools,” Shah said.
On Tuesday, Superintendent Mary Alice McLean of Regional School Unit 71 said that a person connected to CASS who was presumed positive for the virus did not have it after all. A second test came back negative, she said.
Others initially feared to have been exposed at the elementary school have tested negative, she said. Those at Troy A. Howard and Ames who had potentially come into contact with the virus there, have also tested negative so far, she added.
“Please keep wearing those masks, staying at a safe social distance from everyone, and sanitizing your hands. Surely these things have had a role in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus,” McLean said.
An employee at Bayview Manor in Searsport has also tested positive, Shah said. The facility is undertaking universal testing of all residents and staff.