A third COVID-19 related death has been linked to an Aug. 7 wedding and reception in the Millinocket area, state health officials said Friday.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention also reported 19 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a sharp decline from the 53 cases on Thursday, and an additional death. The CDC didn’t reveal if that death, of a woman in her 80s from Somerset County, was the third death stemming from the wedding.

State officials have not provided specifics about the links between any of the three deaths and wedding guests.

The death of a man in his 70s from Somerset County that was reported on Wednesday also was connected to the wedding, but state officials have not said how. The first death was Theresa Dentremont of Millinocket, whose family has said she had contact with a wedding guest.

Overall, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has now tracked 4,632 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 134 deaths. Subtracting previously reported probable COVID-19 cases that turned out to be negative, Maine had a net increase of 15 cases on Friday.

Despite the low case load Friday, there were two days this week in which Maine saw more than 50 new cases. Those spikes can in part be attributed to large outbreaks associated with the wedding and reception, which is now linked to 147 cases. One wedding guest was a staff member at the York County Jail, which now has an outbreak of 72 cases.

Another related outbreak – at Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison – reported 19 cases Friday, up from 15 on Thursday. State officials have said a staff member at Maplecrest became infected from someone who was a close contact of a wedding attendee, which led to the nursing home outbreak.

The state’s citation of the Big Moose Inn says a health inspector found that employees were not wearing face coverings, tables were not at least 6 feet apart and there was no social distancing. Linda Coan O’Kresik/The Bangor Daily News via AP

Mary-Jane Richards, chief operating officer of North Country Associates, which owns Maplecrest, said Friday that she didn’t know if either of the two deaths the CDC reported this week were Maplecrest residents. Both were residents of Somerset County, where Madison is located.

Richards said the 40 residents of Maplecrest and their family members have been supportive of staff during the outbreak.

“Everyone is working really hard to ensure they are getting good care,” she said.

Statewide, the seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 29.3, up from a low of 13.1 on Aug. 12, but still below peaks of over 50 in late May and nearly 40 in late June and early July.

In his media briefing on Thursday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah warned about an increase of cases in York County. Eighteen of the 53 cases on Thursday were in York County, as were four of 19 cases on Friday.

As a result, the Maine Department of Education downgraded York County’s classification from “green” to “yellow” for school reopening, which means some in-person learning is possible but that schools need to be extra cautious about protocols because of the virus prevalence. Most schools are already using a hybrid of in-person and remote learning.

Additionally, 11 students at the University of New England have tested positive for COVID-19, the school said Thursday. Ten of them have returned home or are in isolation in off-campus housing. One is in isolation in a dormitory on the Biddeford Campus. Thirteen students who have been identified as close contacts of the positive students are in quarantine.

 

“I am concerned that if we do not get a grip on what’s going on in York County, it has the potential to spiral and start affecting adjacent parts of the state in the not-too-distant future,” Shah said Thursday.

The state is tracking another outbreak of 10 cases at Sanford’s Calvary Baptist Church, whose pastor, Todd Bell, officiated the wedding in East Millinocket. The Maine CDC is still investigating whether the Sanford church outbreak is related to the wedding and the reception that followed at the Big Moose Inn Millinocket.

Meanwhile, after the church appeared to not follow social distancing requirements by the state to control the pandemic, according to online videos that have since been removed, the Maine CDC sent Bell a letter this week informing him of the requirements.

“With upcoming services this weekend at all your churches in Maine, we want to ensure that you will require your congregants to wear face coverings, asking those in attendance to maintain a 6-foot distance from each other, and that all services will adhere to the governor’s orders on the number of people who can attend gatherings,” the letter from the Maine CDC said. “For indoor gatherings, that is 50 individuals, and for outdoor, 100.”

Hospitalizations remained low on Friday, with nine people currently hospitalized, and five in intensive care.

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