Without guest list, Maine CDC likely undercounted cases linked to Aug. 7 wedding

This story will be updated.

The first sign that the coronavirus had been spreading at an Aug. 7 wedding reception on Millinocket Lake came just one day after the event, when a Maine resident who was at the reception developed a fever, runny nose, cough and fatigue.

Over the coming week, a total of 24 people who attended the reception tested positive for the virus. From there, the outbreak continued to infect people all over Maine, including in a Somerset County nursing home and, more than 200 miles to the south, at the York County Jail.

Eight people died in connection with the event, and seven were hospitalized, none of whom actually attended.

At least 177 cases of COVID-19 were eventually linked to the now-infamous wedding in northern Maine, according to a new scientific article from staffers at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention that was published this week on the website of their agency’s federal counterpart. 

The article in the U.S. CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report includes many of the details the state has already shared with the public. It also sheds some new light on how the coronavirus spread following the wedding reception and some of the challenges Maine CDC investigators faced in piecing together the disparate parts of the outbreak, which spanned at least four counties.

Among the new details in the report:

  • The bride, groom and groom’s family came to the wedding from California the day before the wedding, Aug. 6, and received negative coronavirus tests before traveling, allowing them to avoid the two-week quarantine Maine otherwise requires of out-of-state travelers.
  • The “index patient” — the first patient known to have come down with COVID-19 as a result of the wedding reception — was a Maine resident.
  • The initial round of infections from the reception also included an employee of the Big Moose Inn, a vendor who was there, and a diner at the inn who was unconnected to the wedding.
  • The York County Jail employee who attended the wedding reception and subsequently spread the virus to the jail worked daily eight-hour shifts from Aug. 15-19 in two separate jail units while showing coronavirus symptoms.
  • Maine CDC investigators never obtained a wedding guest list, which led the state agency to likely undercount the number of cases ultimately connected to the wedding outbreak.
A diagram published in the U.S. CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report illustrates how the coronavirus spread following an Aug. 7 wedding reception in the Millinocket region. The reception led to Maine’s largest COVID-19 outbreak to date. Credit: Courtesy of the U.S. CDC

The article in the CDC’s weekly epidemiology publication does not specifically mention the location or other geographical details about the outbreak, but it notes that the outbreak began with an Aug. 7 wedding reception before spreading to a nursing home and county jail. Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah has previously told the BDN that such an article was due to be published.

The 177 cases linked to the

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