The number of COVID-19 cases connected to a wedding reception in Millinocket continues to climb, with state health officials saying on Saturday that they could trace 53 confirmed cases of coronavirus to the reception. That’s up from 32 confirmed cases on Friday.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday that investigators identified secondary and tertiary transmission of the virus, which means that it has spread to people who did not attend the Aug. 7 wedding reception but had close contact with individuals who were present at the event (secondary cases) and close contacts of the secondary cases.

Millinocket Regional Hospital has reported that it tested 366 people who attended the reception or came in contact with those who did. Of the 53 cases linked to the reception on Saturday, 13 were secondary and 10 were tertiary, Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said Saturday evening.

Those affected range in age from 4 to 98 years old, with a median age of 41. A woman who did not attend the reception died on Friday after contracting COVID-19 from a person who did attend the event, health authorities said. They did not identify her, nor the guest she came into contact with.

Big Moose Inn, which hosted the event, was cited for an “imminent health hazard,” which carries no fine but can bring harsher penalties if state officials determine the venue violated health rules again. The wedding reception had 65 people, more than the state maximum of 50 for indoor gatherings.

Maine health officials have said the investigation into the wedding reception continues, including to what extent attendees were wearing masks or not wearing masks, and whether they were instructed by the Big Moose Inn to do so. Under Maine’s emergency orders to combat the spread of the coronavirus, establishments are required to enforce mask wearing in indoor public places.

The news followed on the heels of 32 new cases of the novel coronavirus and one death reported Saturday morning, just as schools reopen across the state and the University of Maine records cases among its students.

The Millinocket wedding reception has a chance to eclipse the outbreak at Cape Memory Care, a Cape Elizabeth facility for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s, which had at least 61 patients and 23 staff members infected with COVID-19.

“Social gatherings such as weddings and receptions pose an elevated risk for virus transmission,” the Maine CDC said in a statement. “The possibility of COVID-19 transmission increases as the number of attendees increases, even when some attendees are indoors and others are outdoors. This is because outdoor attendees may reasonably be expected to come indoors and interact with others, increasing the possibility of COVID-19 transmission.”

The public health agency also said: “Indoor gatherings pose extra risk compared to outdoor gatherings, given the challenges of ensuring adequate physical distancing and ventilation.”

Meanwhile, Maine’s cumulative cases rose to 4,317 on Saturday, according to the Maine CDC. Of those, 3,872 have been confirmed by testing and 445 are considered probable cases of COVID-19.

There have been 130 deaths from COVID-19 in Maine. The person reported Saturday to have died was a man in his 70s from Cumberland County, the Maine CDC said.

Subtracting the number of people who have recovered – 3,718 – and died, there were 469 active cases on Saturday.

Three students at the University of Maine in Orono also tested positive for COVID-19 this past week, the university announced Friday. Two of the students live off campus in Orono and a third lives in a fraternity house.

The university plans to begin classes on Aug. 31, with most residential students moving in this coming week. The University of Maine System on Friday posted new guidance warning students that holding large parties is a violation of its code of conduct and can bring suspension or dismissal.

County by county in Maine since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 590 cases in Androscoggin, 37 in Aroostook, 2,158 in Cumberland, 47 in Franklin, 45 in Hancock, 179 in Kennebec, 28 in Knox, 35 in Lincoln, 59 in Oxford, 212 in Penobscot, seven in Piscataquis, 59 in Sagadahoc, 42 in Somerset, 67 in Waldo, 15 in Washington, and 737 in York.

By age, 9.9 percent of patients were under 20, while 16.3 percent were in their 20s, 15.1 percent were in their 30s, 14.8 percent were in their 40s, 16.4 percent were in their 50s, 11.6 percent were in their 60s, 8 percent were in their 70s, and 7.9 percent were 80 or over.

Women still make up a slight majority of cases, at just under 52 percent.

Maine’s hospitals had only four patients with COVID-19 on Saturday, of whom one was in intensive care and one was on a ventilator. There were 118 intensive care unit beds available of a statewide 389, and 251 ventilators available of 318. Maine also had 442 alternative ventilators.

Around the world late Saturday afternoon, there were over 23 million known cases of COVID-19 and more than 801,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had more than 5.6 million cases and 176,000 deaths.

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report.

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