Maine Wedding Coronavirus Cases Reach 134 As State CDC Investigates Sanford Church Outbreak

The Maine wedding that led to a coronavirus outbreak in the Millinocket area and beyond has now been linked to 134 cases of the disease, the state's Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said.

In a briefing held Tuesday, Maine CDC director Nirav D. Shah said 11 more cases have been added to the toll from the wedding. There have now been 123 confirmed cases and 11 probable, he said. The wedding has also been linked to an outbreak at a rehabilitation center and at the York County Jail, where there are now 66 cases of COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, Maine has had over 4,500 cases of COVID-19 and 132 deaths. Cases in the state peaked in May and over the last few months the state has kept the virus largely under control. According to Johns Hopkins University, the current test positivity rate is 0.6 percent, which is well below the 5 percent threshold set by the World Health Organization to say when it is safe to take steps to reopen.

Shah said the 66 cases in the jail included 38 inmates, 19 staff, five family members of staff. One staff member had attended the August 7 wedding.

At the Maple Crest Rehabilitation Center, there have been 12 cases, including both staff and residents. One staff member from Maple Crest was a secondary contact of a wedding guest.

One woman—83-year-old Theresa Dentremont—died on August 21 after contracting the virus from a wedding guest.

"Our investigation of this nexus of cases is ongoing as we learn more about the dynamics as well as the additional cases we've learned about," he said of the wedding outbreak.

The update on the outbreak from the wedding, which took place at the start of August, comes as the Maine CDC launches an investigation into another church in the state. It said there are at least five cases linked to the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford. "An epidemiological investigation is underway, including determining the extent of links to other outbreaks in York and Penobscot counties," it said.

The CDC said anyone who attended services at the church between August 9 and 23, or at the churches Vacation Bible School between August 10 and 14, may have been exposed to the virus. "Ongoing exposures are possible so individuals affiliated with Calvary Baptist Church should monitor for signs and symptoms of disease," a Maine CDC statement said.

The Sanford church at the center of the latest outbreak is led by pastor Todd Bell, who has been linked to Millinocket wedding. WGME reports two Sunday services were held just a day after the Maine CDC confirmed five cases among Calvary Baptist Church attendees.

Bell has remained defiant about the spread of the virus. According to the Bangor Daily News, he told church attendees they did not need to follow government mandates. He said the pandemic was controlled by "God not government," saying people could wear masks if they wanted but that doing so was like "keeping a mosquito out of a chain-link fence." He reportedly told attendees the death rate in the U.S. for 2020 was the same level as it was last year and told people vaccines being developed for COVID-19 contained "aborted baby tissue."

Shah previously warned that the wedding outbreak shows how fragile the coronavirus situation is in the state at the moment. "It suggests that there was already transmission happening in Penobscot County by the attendees, and when they came together it was sort kind of like a powder keg that was giving off sparks, and generated a higher than expected number of cases," he said. "It can spiral. That's what concerns me right now."

Correction 09/04 3.35 a.m. ET: This article has been corrected to say the Maple Crest staff member was a secondary contact of a wedding guest, rather than a wedding guest.

Stock image of wedding rings. The Maine wedding that caused an outbreak of coronavirus has now been linked to 134 cases. iStock