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Maine wedding COVID-19 outbreak linked to clusters at nursing home and jail

Public health officials have linked an Aug. 7 wedding in Millinocket, Maine, to a pair of coronavirus clusters at a nursing home and a jail in that state, authorities said Tuesday.

Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during his regular briefing Tuesday that 60 COVID-19 cases have now been linked to the nuptials and reception. A woman who contracted the virus has died.

Shah said that of the 60 infections, about 22 are primary cases, or people who attended the wedding or reception; about 14 are secondary cases, or close contacts of attendees; and about 24 are tertiary contacts, or close contacts of someone who was a secondary contact.

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“It’s essentially a ring, a series of concentric rings that get built out, all emanating from this one Aug. 7 event,” Shah said.

He said six of the 60 cases have been detected at Maplecrest Rehabilitation & Living Center in Madison, Maine.

According to Shah, a wedding attendee infected a parent, who passed the virus to another child who works at Maplecrest. That worker, Shah said, infected five people at the facility including four residents and one fellow staffer.

“That’s just an example of how quickly this virus can spread,” Shah said. “From a wedding, to a guest, to a parent, to another child, to a nursing home.”

Maplecrest, which offers nursing care and rehabilitative services, said recently via Facebook that the staff remains committed to stopping the spread of the virus.

“Please continue to feel free to call the facility and inquire about your loved one,” the posting said. “All protocols are in effect as directed by our State and Federal CDC and Licensing partners. We remain committed to containing the spread of Covid-19 in our home. Thank you all for your commitment and assistance.”

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On Tuesday, Shah said the Millinocket wedding has also been linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at the York County Jail in Alfred, Maine. He said the state’s “disease detectives” on Tuesday morning established a connection between the wedding and the jail.

The tracers determined that one wedding guest who works at the jail was among the “very first” confirmed cases at the facility, where there are now a total of 18 cases among inmates and employees.

“These recent examples are restaurant-quality pieces of information that demonstrate how aggressive and how opportunistic this virus is, and how quickly it can move from one community to another, even if those communities are miles apart, separated by multiple counties in between,” Shah said. “What we’ve learned about COVID-19 is that it can be the uninvited guest at every single wedding, party, or event in Maine. The virus is where we are, and then it comes home with us.”

Shah, in urging vigilance against the virus, added that it’s “everywhere around us” and “making folks across the state of Maine sick. Now more than ever, the actions that you take today can help keep people in your community safe tomorrow.”

Millinocket Fire Chief Thomas Malcolm told the Globe Monday that the outbreak linked to the wedding had left area residents feeling “on edge.”

“Prior to that we had no issues with COVID-19,” Malcolm said.

He said that in response to the outbreak, the town offices in Millinocket are closed and local officials are revamping their plans to reopen the schools. Local officials also are using funding from a state grant to promote the wearing of face coverings and to remind tourists to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

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“Everybody’s being real cautious,” the chief said Monday.

The wedding was was held at a church in East Millinocket and the reception followed at the Big Moose Inn on Millinocket Lake, officials have said. Attendees ranged in age from 4 to 98 years old, and 83 percent reported experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, authorities said.

Malcolm noted Monday that the Big Moose Inn is not located in the town of Millinocket; it’s actually located in an unorganized territory about 8 miles away from the town. The resort offers suites, a campground, a restaurant, and cabins on Millinocket Lake.

“We’re the nearest community,” said Malcolm.

Approximately 65 guests attended the wedding ceremony at the Tri Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket and the reception, officials said.

One of those who tested positive, an adult female patient at Millinocket Regional Hospital, died.

Malcolm said the reception was held indoors at the inn.

“It was like a sit-down meal,” he said. “They did cite them for being over capacity.”

Maine CDC officials said they delivered an imminent health hazard citation to the Big Moose Inn for exceeding the state’s indoor gathering limit of 50 individuals when it hosted the wedding reception. (Maine currently limits indoor gatherings to 50 people, and outdoor gatherings are limited to 100, with no more than five people per 1,000 square feet.)

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Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.