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Maine CDC: 87 COVID-19 Cases Now Associated With Millinocket Wedding

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Maine is reporting an increase of 25 COVID-19 cases logged since the pandemic hit here, bringing the total to 4,414. The death toll remains unchanged at 132.That is according to Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah. At a briefing Thursday, Shah said 3,847 Mainers have recovered from the virus, an increase overnight of 29. That leaves 435 active cases that the state is tracking, a drop of four. 

Over the course of the pandemic, 415 people have had to be hospitalized during their illness. Nine people are currently hospitalized, and four are in intensive care. One person is on a ventilator.

Shah said health officials continue to investigate dozens of cases associated with a wedding and reception August 7 in Millinocket. He said 87 cases so far are connected with the event, including nine at the Maplecrest Rehab facility in Madison and 18 cases at the York County Jail facility. 

Shah said 30 of the infected individuals attended the wedding, and they infected another 35 people. Those people in turn infected another 22. Fifty-nine of the 87 people had symptoms of COVID-19.

"It suggests that there was already transmission happening in Penobscot County by those attendees, and when they came together it was sort of like a powder keg that was giving off sparks, and generated a higher than expected number of cases. That high number of cases then seeded the platform for more cases to pop up elsewhere."

In addition, Shah said state health officials continue to looking for potential links to four cases among members of the Sanford, Buxton and Saco fire departments.  

"That unfortunately sets the pathway for more and more cases, it can spiral. That's what concerns me right now - that 80-plus cases could keep growing and growing and growing."

Shah said Maine's positivity rate for the virus remains low, with a seven-day weighted average below 1%. He said testing volume in the state has grown by 53% over the past month and expanded 44% in the past seven days alone.

Meanwhile, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the state is extending access to free tests conducted at Maine's 27 "swab and send" sites through Oct. 31. 

Shah emphasized that Maine is not planning any changes to its testing protocols in the wake of a controversy over revised federal CDC testing guidelines that say that people who have had close contact with known cases but don't have symptoms don't need to take a COVID-19 test.

"Let me be clear: We at the Maine CDC recommend that you take one," Shah said.

In reference to allowing school sports this fall, Lambrew says the state is still considering proposals for that. But she says whatever the decision, Maine's COVID-19 health and safety guidelines will apply. 

Fred Bever contributed to this report. Updated 4:45 p.m. Aug. 27, 2020.