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Maine Reports 16 Additional COVID-19 Cases, As State Probes Millinocket Wedding Reception Outbreak

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference Monday, March 16, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Maine's total number of COVID-19 cases logged since the pandemic began rose by 16 overnight to 4,213. The death toll held steady at 127.That's according to Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah, who spoke at a press briefing Tuesday.

Some of those additional cases could be related to an outbreak at a wedding reception in Millinocket, which Shah said has been connected with at least 24 COVID-19 cases so far. He said the CDC is investigating the source of the outbreak associated with the event at the Big Moose Inn on Aug. 7.

All of the cases identified so far are among Maine residents.

Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, who joined Shah at the briefing, said officials are looking into whether the hotel followed state health and safety guidelines for large gatherings. As of Aug. 1, Maine's limit on large outdoor gatherings was increased from 50 people to 100, but a limit of 5 people per 1,000 sq feet must be maintained. Indoor gatherings remain limited to 50 people.

Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said in an email that some of the cases connected with the Millinocket wedding event were included in Monday's totals, but it's not clear how many. Shah said the cases are added to the state's tally as investigators identify them and determine where infected individuals reside.

Shah said the state is also trying to determine whether people at the event were wearing face coverings, social distancing and following other health and safety guidelines. "It's another remider that COVID-19 exists everywhere in Maine and can spread very quickly when people gather," he said.

Meanwhile, officials say a total of 3,649 Mainers have recovered from COVID-19, an increase of 11 since yesterday. That leaves 437 active cases of the disease, an increase of five overnight.

A total of 401 Mainers have had to be hospitalized at some point during their illness. As of Tuesday, 10 people were hospitalized, five of them in intensive care beds, Shah said. One person was on a ventilator.

Shah said Maine's hospitalization rate remains relatively low, at less than 1 person for every 100,000 residents, compared with the national average of 15 per 100,000.

Shah said 17 workers quarantined due to outbreaks at agricultural operations in Hancock County are due to be released today after showing no symptoms. And he said the state has now closed its investigation into three cases associated with a Walmart in Presque Isle.

Maine's 7-day weighted average positivity rate for COVID-19 is .75%, compared with a national average of 7%, Shah said.

Updated at 2:48 p.m. Aug, 18, 2020.