Wedding reception outbreak in Maine shows virus is 'lurking'

An outbreak associated with a wedding reception in rural Maine should serve as a warning that "COVID-19 is lurking around every corner of the state," the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control said Tuesday.

The official number of people who contracted the virus stood at 24 but could grow as the investigation continues into the Aug. 7 gathering in Millinocket, Maine, CDC Director Nirav Shah told reporters.

"It's another reminder that COVID-19 exists everywhere in Maine and can spread very quickly when large groups of people gather together for a long duration with high density," he said.

It should also serve as a warning to business operators and event planners during the coronavirus pandemic.

All told, about 65 people attended the event at the Big Moose Inn while the limit for indoor gatherings is 50, officials said. The owner could face a $10,000 fine if the executive orders were violated, officials said.

A message left at the inn was not returned.

The outbreak prompted the closure of schools and town hall. The state announced the local district court will be closed Wednesday.

Shah declined to say whether there were violations, saying there will be a thorough investigation and "no rush to judgment." He also declined to say how many, if any, of the 24 infected people were showing symptoms. 

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX5NY News app. It is FREE! Download for iOS or Android

All of the 24 people who tested positive were Maine residents. Eighteen attended the event, while six others had close contact with attendees.

There have been other outbreaks at businesses in Maine, including more than 30 cases have been associated with three blueberry-related businesses in the Down East region, Shah said Tuesday.

Another 16 people tested positive for the coronavirus, the Maine CDC said, bringing the total number to more than 4,200 in the state. The number of deaths from COVID-19 was unchanged at 127, he said.

The seven-day positivity rate is 0.75% in Maine, compared to a national rate of 7%, Shah said.