Coronavirus Cases Tied to Maine Wedding Have Increased Sixfold, State Health Officials Say

The Maine wedding that led to multiple coronavirus outbreaks throughout the state has now been associated with 144 positive coronavirus cases, more than six times the number of linked cases initially reported by state health officials.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), announced the updated numbers at a Thursday press conference. The wedding, which took place August 7 at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, has caused known outbreaks at the York County Jail in Alfred and the Maplecrest Rehabilitation Center in Madison.

The Maine CDC announced its investigation into the wedding August 17, reporting 24 positive COVID-19 cases among wedding guests. That number has since increased sixfold to 144 cases. One additional death linked to the wedding has been determined, bringing the total fatalities to two, Shah said.

Health officials' current hypothesis is that more than one person likely came to the wedding already positive with coronavirus, thus allowing it to spread more efficiently than what is seen in other outbreaks, Shah said.

Of the 144 cases, 56 were determined to be guests at the wedding, or their secondary or tertiary contacts, Shah said. One of these secondary contacts happens to work at Maplecrest, and the facility now has eight infected residents and an additional seven infected staff members.

The York County Jail has seen the largest outbreak as a result of the wedding, which one of its staff members had attended. Within the jail, 46 inmates, an additional 18 staff members and seven of their relatives have tested positive for COVID-19, Shah said.

Eight of these cases involving inmates were reported within the past 24 hours, a particularly concerning figure to the Maine CDC because the new cases were discovered in a part of the jail where there had not previously been cases, according to the agency's initial investigation.

"It's illustrative of the fact that COVID-19 is an opportunistic virus," he said. "And despite the best attempts to place individuals into cohorts and eliminate any intermingling among them, there's still the possibility that the virus can be an unintended guest…and introduce itself into new areas."

Shah added that Maine CDC investigators found that the jail's face-covering compliance was "not what it should've been," and that health officials are now working with staff members to ensure that the facility has the proper recommendations in place and a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment.

COVID wedding mask
A bridesmaid holds on to the bride's face mask while the newly married couple pose for pictures on May 9, after a ceremony at the Glencliff Manor in Rustburg, Virginia. The Maine wedding that led to multiple coronavirus outbreaks throughout the state has now been associated with 144 positive coronavirus cases, more than six times the number of linked cases initially reported by state health officials, they announced September 3. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty

Coronavirus transmission in York County is increasing, and cases there are driving much of the numbers seen across the rest of Maine, Shah said.

"I am concerned that if we do not get a grip on what's going on in York County, it has the potential to spiral and start affecting adjacent parts of the state in the not-too-distant future," he said.

York County, the state's second-largest in terms of population, has reported 867 total coronavirus cases and 15 deaths as of September 2, according to the Maine CDC. Statewide, the agency has recorded 4,617 total cases and 133 deaths.

In response to Newsweek's request for comment, a spokesman for the Maine CDC pointed to Shah's current and archived press briefings. Shah's comments "provide Maine CDC's position on the outbreak in the Millinocket region and its link to outbreaks in York and Somerset counties," the spokesman said.

Coronavirus Cases Tied to Maine Wedding Have Increased Sixfold, State Health Officials Say | News