A COVID-19 outbreak connected to a Waldo County church grew by another 10 cases on Tuesday, with 42 people now sickened, according to state health officials.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director, of the outbreak emanating from Brooks Pentecostal Church. Speaking at a Tuesday afternoon media briefing, Shah said to expect “perhaps significantly” more cases connected to the outbreak in the coming days. He said some people have been hospitalized, but he did not know precisely how many.

Statewide, Maine reported 33 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and no additional deaths.

Shah said fellowship gatherings from Oct. 2-4 that involved Brooks Pentecostal and members of other churches violated Mills administration executive orders, including directives to limit indoor crowds to less than 50, wear masks in indoor public places and practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart.

About 100 to 150 people attended the Oct. 2-4 events, Shah said, including people from the Quaker Hill Christian Church in Unity and the Charleston Church and Faith Bible College in Charleston.

“Masks were available but not routinely used,” Shah said. He said Brooks Pentecostal in early October also held its own church services attended by 70 to 100 people. Public health rules were also ignored at those services, he said.

Cases at nearby public schools are believed to be linked to the church outbreak, but there are currently no outbreaks of three or more cases at any one public school, Shah said.

Among the 42 cases connected to the church, seven are linked to its school, Lighthouse Christian Academy. Shah said it’s not yet known whether the school was also not following protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing.

Matthew Shaw, pastor of Brooks Pentecostal Church, said in a Facebook post Tuesday that he would “like to express sadness over the resulting sickness that has been spread by this virus.”

He went on to say that the church, after learning that people who attended had become ill, has been “following quarantine measures since before any positive tests were reported.”

“Though the origin of the virus is unclear, we will be addressing all recommendations and guidelines provided to us by the CDC,” Shaw wrote. “Our church will be addressing our continuity of worship in a safe and orderly manner.”

Shah said the pastor works in security at Waldo County General Hospital.

The church has been closed for services since mid-October, but there have already been ripple effects throughout the community.

The Republican Journal, a Belfast newspaper, reported Monday that town officials are reassessing plans for Halloween, a tea fundraiser was canceled and the Brooks Thrift Shop had temporarily closed.

Three people associated with schools at RSU 71 in Waldo County have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Republican Journal. One school, Ames Elementary School, has switched to remote learning through Nov. 2.

Also, Shah said, one case has been reported at Mt. View Elementary School in Thorndike.

The Maine CDC advises anyone who spent time at the Brooks church or its school to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, which include shortness of breath, coughing, loss of sense of taste or smell, fever, fatigue, headaches and other symptoms.

Passengers disembark from the Casco Bay ferry Wabanaki this month. Derek Davis/Staff  Photographer

Since Oct. 11, cases in Waldo County have jumped from 80 to 127. Six new cases were reported Tuesday in York County, five in Androscoggin County and two in Cumberland County.

Gov. Janet Mills, joining Shah at the media briefing, said “99.9” percent of faith leaders have been “extraordinarily cooperative” during the pandemic.

“They don’t wish for their parishioners, staff and choir members to be exposed to this virus,” Mills said.

Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner, said that the virus can strike anywhere, whether the gathering is religious or otherwise.

“Not following protocols in other settings will pose equal threats,” Lambrew said.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 5,898 cases of COVID-19 and 146 deaths.

The statewide seven-day average of daily new cases was 34.6 on Tuesday, compared to 34 two weeks ago, and 28 a month ago. Nine people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, with one in intensive care.

The state’s positivity rate remained low Tuesday, with the seven-day average of tests returned positive at 0.48 percent, compared to the national average of 5.4 percent. During the past month, Maine’s positivity rate has been around 0.5 to 0.6 percent.

Mills encouraged Mainers to be “sensible” and to “continue to fight” COVID-19, and not let up on public health measures that have kept the state’s numbers better than most. Maine currently has the second-lowest number of cases per capita in the country, on a seven-day average, with only Vermont having a lower rate.

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