A wedding in Maine led to a coronavirus outbreak that’s killed 7 people and infected dozens more

coronavirus in maine wedding outbreak
Photo via Jeff Belmonte/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Maine has been one of the states that’s been least affected by the coronavirus. After Vermont and Wyoming, it ranks as the No. 3 state in the nation for lowest COVID-19 cases (about 5,000) and No. 6 for fewest amount of deaths (137 as of mid-September). But the coronavirus in Maine has had more of an impact since the beginning of August, and much of that rise has been traced back to an wedding that reportedly infected 176 people and caused seven people to die, according to the Boston Globe.

None of the seven people actually attended the event, CNN reported.

A wedding in Millinocket on Aug. 7 was apparently the catalyst. According to Dr. Nirav D. Shah, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s director, one of the wedding attendees passed the virus on to a patient at a rehabilitation and living center in Madison. Since then, seven residents of that center have died, and 39 residents have been infected. That nursing home is about 100 miles away from where the wedding was located.

Additionally, one of the wedding guests employed at a local county jail also spread the coronavirus at work.

According to the newspaper, about 65 guests attended the wedding, from the ages of 4 to 98, and afterward, more than 80% experienced COVID-19 symptoms. The state mandates a maximum of 50 people can congregate at one event.

The Washington Post reported that the state cited the wedding venue, the Big Moose Inn, for allowing too many people into the event, for not implementing measures that would keep guests socially distanced, and for not getting the contact information for those who attended the event. The venue’s operators said they “did make an error in the interpretation” of how many people could be present at the wedding.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a plethora of weddings have been canceled or postponed to avoid community spread of the coronavirus. Some couples have turned their weddings into virtual events or kept the guest list extraordinarily small for in-person nuptials.

As Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt, told Health in May, “With any decision these days, it’s instead important to think about what are the risks and how can we reduce them? … A wedding is one of those occasions where there will be an epidemic of hugging and kissing that goes on. Can people try to be restrained? It’s unlikely.”

Said Shah: “The virus favors gatherings. It does not distinguish between happy events like a wedding celebration, or sad farewells, like a funeral.”

Sources: Boston Globe, CNN, Health, Washington Post

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