Health officials say a wedding last month in Maine illustrates just how volatile the Covid-19 coronavirus is, and how rapidly it can spread via social gatherings.
That one wedding, on Aug. 7 in Millinocket, a small town in central Maine, drew 65 attendees — 15 more than the state’s 50-person limit for indoor gatherings. There was no mask-wearing or social distancing.
Virus trackers say the ceremony and reception have now been linked to 176 Covid-19 cases and at least seven deaths.
What’s more, none of those who died actually attended the wedding.
Most of the infections and deaths occurred at a county jail more than 200 miles from the wedding site, and a nursing home, more than 100 miles away. Only one worker from each facility attended the wedding.
“It’s a real cautionary tale that even in a relatively rural area in Maine that there was still fuel for a fire to erupt,” Thomas Tsai, an assistant professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Washington Post.
A total of 80 cases linked to the wedding have been confirmed at the building that houses the York County Jail.
Another 39 people tested positive at the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, including 24 residents and 15 staff members.
Six of the seven deaths connected to the wedding occurred at the rehabilitation center.
Maine officials are looking into whether a coronavirus outbreak at a Baptist church in Sanford, more than 200 miles from Millinocket, is also part of the pattern; the church’s pastor officiated at the wedding, reports The Hill.
“The virus favors gatherings. It does not distinguish between happy events, like a wedding celebration, or a sad farewell, like funerals. It is everywhere,” said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, at a Tuesday news conference.
The wedding was just one of the so-called “superspreader” gatherings that took place this summer, including a huge motorcycle rally in South Dakota and student events at colleges and universities in all 50 states, which together are linked to tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases, says CNN.