A Maine wedding reception of 55 people left more than half of its guests infected with COVID-19, affecting a total of 176 people despite Maine’s current public health guideline of a 50-person limit for indoor gatherings. Seven people have already died, but what’s more disturbing is that they did not even attend the wedding.
The management of Big Moose Inn, where the wedding was held, said that they misinterpreted the state’s 50-person cap for indoor events. “We did make an error in the interpretation of that rule,” the management said in a statement. “Our interpretation was that we could take a wedding party of more than 50 persons, and split them between two rooms as long as it didn’t exceed our total capacity or a specific room’s capacity.”
How Did It Spread So Far and So Fast?
According to Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the guests who attended the event infected their parents, who then infected one of their children, who infected their co-workers. All of these events happened within a span of 2 ½ weeks.
Outbreaks at the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center and the York County Jail were connected to the wedding after one staff member from each facility was found to have attended the event. The York County Jail, which is 200 miles away from the wedding reception, now has 80 cases confirmed while 39 people from the rehabilitation center have tested positive.
Health officials have traced cases linked to the wedding throughout August, with 24 cases initially. By the end of the month, it grew to 123 cases and by September 3, the recorded number was at 143.
Maine has recorded 4,415 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with an average of 29 per day. The US has had 11.3 million cases of COVID-19 to date, with 247,000 deaths and counting.
Mass Gatherings: How Many is Too Many?
Social distancing has been a key phrase in the past months, being the most important factor in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, despite social distancing measures, other factors come into play, such as how susceptible we are to infection, the frequency of contact we have with people, and the duration of those contacts.
Respiratory infections appear to be the most common infectious disease transmitted during gatherings. The World Health Organization has advised governments to seriously consider postponing any gathering that brings people together, potentially amplifying the virus through close contact.
And while everyone wants to know what exact number of people is too many, what really matters is keeping gatherings small and considering the social dynamics that may be involved in the crowd. The sheer size of the group is not the only factor to consider; for example, small groups of five people can be as risky as a big event with 100 people. There is no magic number that we can consider safe for gatherings, but reducing the amount of contact