53 people who tested positive for COVID-19 linked to Maine wedding reception

53 people who tested positive for COVID-19 linked to Maine wedding reception
Airmen from the 18th Medical Group conduct COVID-19 testing at Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 20. Under the most current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the 18 MDG has increased its testing for the disease. Those who are tested become Persons Under Investigation (PUI), are contacted by Public Health, placed into isolation and instructed on how to avoid spread of their illness to family members in the home. Public Health interviews the PUI and develops a list of “close contacts” who are then called and given instructions to quarantine for 14 days. A close contact is someone who lived with or cared for a PUI, had direct physical contact with a PUI, or shared eating utensils or had prolonged close conversation with a PUI. On average, lab results take 2-5 days to return. If results are negative, isolated and quarantined individuals will be notified and released. If results come back positive, quarantine for the close contact will continue for 14 days and isolation for the PUI will continue until the PUI is medically cleared. Someone who has had contact with someone deemed a close contact does not need to be placed in quarantine but should continue to practice social distancing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mandy Foster)
News & Politics

Despite pleas from public health officials to not gather and practice social distancing, some people are continuing to host parties and large events. Coronavirus cases continue to climb across the country as a result, and in Maine, cases linked to one wedding that violated attendance limits are increasing significantly. According to the Associated Press, as of Saturday 53 cases of COVID-19 have been traced back to the Aug.7 reception, including one resulting in death. Approximately 65 people attended the Millinocket wedding reception despite state limitations of 50 people maximum per indoor gathering.

According to health officials, the woman who died Friday from COVID-19 did not attend the wedding but contracted the virus from an attendee, the Portland Press Herald reported. Due to the outbreak not only was the local hospital closed to visitors but the town hall and schools as well. Between Friday to Saturday, 32 new cases were announced by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The number is expected to climb.

Millinocket Regional Hospital reported that it tested 366 people who either attended the reception or came in contact with those who did. Of the 53 cases linked to the reception thus far, 13 were secondary and 10 were tertiary, Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said Saturday. Officials said the outbreak affected individuals ranging from 4 to 98-years-old. About 83% of those tested reported experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

“Social gatherings such as weddings and receptions pose an elevated risk for virus transmission,” the Maine CDC said in a statement. “The possibility of COVID-19 transmission increases as the number of attendees increases, even when some attendees are indoors and others are outdoors. This is because outdoor attendees may reasonably be expected to come indoors and interact with others, increasing the possibility of COVID-19 transmission.”

“Indoor gatherings pose extra risk compared to outdoor gatherings, given the challenges of ensuring adequate physical distancing and ventilation,” the statement continued.

State health officials said investigations into the wedding continue, including whether or not attendees wore masks and whether the venue instructed them to do so. According to the Portland Press Herald, Maine’s coronavirus emergency order requires establishments to enforce wearing a mask in both indoor and public spaces. The wedding was hosted by the Big Moose Inn. While it was cited for an “imminent health hazard,” a charge that carries no fine, if found to have violated health rules again harsher penalties would take place.

As of this report, at least 4,317 cases of COVID-19 and 130 deaths from coronavirus have been reported in Maine, according to The New York Times database. Compared to their average from two weeks ago, the state has seen an increase in its average of cases per day by 94%.

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