State health officials reported 50 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing Maine above the 6,000-case mark since the pandemic began and inching the seven-day average to its highest point since early July.

There were no additional deaths, leaving the total at 146.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said it has connected four more cases to an outbreak involving a church in the Waldo County town of Brooks, raising the total to 46 cases.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah has said that fellowship gatherings from Oct. 2-4 that involved Brooks Pentecostal Church and members of other churches violated 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, 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.

People walk on the Eastern Promenade Trail as the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad passes by earlier this month. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Although there have been fluctuations from week to week, the overall number of new COVID-19 cases has been rising steadily in Maine since bottoming out in early August. On Aug. 11, the seven-day average of new daily cases was 14. On Wednesday, it was 35.

Cases have been rising steadily in most other states as well, prompting concerns from public health experts as flu season approaches. In the U.S., there have been more than 8.2 million cases and at least 220,000 individuals have died with COVID-19.

New cases were reported in all but two Maine counties Wednesday. York County led the way with eight, followed by Cumberland, Kennebec and Waldo with six each.

Of the state’s 6,027 confirmed or probable cases to date, 76 percent have been in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties.

Maine has been steadily increasing its testing and is currently testing an average of 427 people per 100,000 residents each day. The seven-day average positivity rate is about 0.5 percent, which is low compared with many other states and far below the national average of 5.4 percent. Over the past month, Maine’s positivity rate has been stable, fluctuating between 0.5 and 0.6 percent.

The outbreak in Brooks has similarities to a wedding in Millinocket on Aug. 7 linked to more than 175 cases and eight deaths, most of them residents of a nursing home in Madison. Guests at that wedding also did not wear masks, for the most part, or physically distance. That event led to a major outbreak at York County Jail, which also saw little mask compliance.

Maine has not seen a dramatic increase in hospitalizations with the increase in cases. Since the pandemic began, 470 people have been hospitalized at some point. On Wednesday, there were seven people in the hospital.

 

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