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Maine wedding reception causes an outbreak of 28 COVID cases

A wedding reception in Maine is being blamed for an outbreak of 28 COVID-19 cases as the state’s CDC office launches an investigation into whether the event that led to the cluster broke safety guidelines. 

Officials said Monday that 28 Maine residents tested positive for the coronavirus after the wedding reception in Millinocket — the state’s first outbreak linked to a social gathering.

About 65 people attended the indoor event on August 7 at the Big Moose Inn, according to Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) spokesman Robert Long. 

Eighteen people who attended the reception and six others who had close contact with attendees subsequently tested positive, according to Maine CDC. 

‘Maine CDC continues to conduct case investigations and contact tracing for guests, staff, and people who potentially came in close contact with confirmed cases during and after the event,’ officials said in a statement.  

And while the initial number of cases reported stood at 24, an additional four cases resulting from the event were later recorded by the Millinocket Regional Hospital. 

Hospital officials said the case number is expected to rise as testing continues and pending test results are reported. 

‘All positive individuals have been notified directly and instructed to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days,’ the hospital said in a statement. 

‘At this time all the individuals who’ve tested positive are currently being managed as out-patients; with no hospitalizations required,’ the statement reads. 

The hospital also announced that all elective procedures that can safely be postponed are being rescheduled so that health officials can ascertain the full extent of the exposure. 

The Maine CDC was communicating with Big Moose Inn about the nature of the event and adherence to state requirements. A telephone message was left at the inn on Monday afternoon.

Millinocket Town Manager John Davis said Monday that he didn’t have all the details about the outbreak, but said there was enough concern to close town hall and local schools as a precaution.

‘We didn’t want to take any chances,’ he said.

It was the first outbreak tied to a specific social event in Maine, where most previous outbreaks have been tied to workplaces or congregant care settings, Long said Monday.

It’s unclear if the owner of the Big Moose Inn could be cited if it’s confirmed there were too many people at the reception.

The governor’s executive orders put in place during the global pandemic limit indoor gatherings to 50 people if there’s adequate space, while 100 people are allowed at outdoor events. 

Attendees should also follow physical distancing guidelines and wear masks while not eating.

The orders also allow for a fine of up to $10,000, the governor’s spokeswoman said.

In Penobscot County, where the wedding reception occurred, there are 192 confirmed cases and five deaths. 

In Maine, more than 4,200 people have contracted the virus, including 29 additional cases reported on Monday. 

The number of deaths remained unchanged at 127 on Monday, the Maine CDC said.

There are more than 5.4 million coronavirus cases in the US with 170,559 deaths.  

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