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How a Maine wedding turned into a deadly coronavirus super-spreader

How a Maine wedding turned into a deadly coronavirus super-spreader
Posted at 5:55 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-15 23:06:22-05

All it takes is one event to potentially spread the coronavirus to hundreds of people, directly or indirectly. That is what played out in August at a wedding reception in Maine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All told, the CDC identified 177 coronavirus cases and seven fatalities linked to a wedding in Maine.

Here is how the CDC explained what took place:

On August 8, one day after the wedding, a guest from the wedding began feeling ill with coronavirus symptoms. This person, however, did not get tested for the virus until August 13.

Meanwhile, another attendee of the wedding began feeling ill on August 8 and 9 with a fever, chills, cough, myalgia, runny nose, and headache. This person, a health care worker at a long-term care facility, worked on August 11 and 12. The CDC says this person was tested for the coronavirus on August 13 and received a positive result on August 18.

The Maine CDC began monitoring the facility on August 21, and over the course of several weeks, 14 staff members and 24 residents tested positive for the coronavirus. The CDC said that six residents died and three others were hospitalized from the coronavirus.

On August 11, four days after attending a wedding attended by 55 people, two attendees began experiencing general coronavirus symptoms, including fever, cough and sore throat. On August 12, they received the results of a positive coronavirus test.

The next day, three more people tested positive for the virus, which prompted an investigation by Maine public health officials.

Of the 55 guests, 27 tested positive for the coronavirus. In addition, two people working the wedding and a diner who was not a wedding guest, tested positive for the coronavirus.

Through contact tracing, officials in Maine discovered an additional 27 cases in the community. While none of the wedding guests died, a person who came in contact with a wedding attendee died from the virus.

The CDC said that a corrections employee who worked from August 15-19 and also attended the wedding tested positive for the coronavirus, along with four other employees. By September 1, 18 additional prison staff members and 46 inmates tested positive for the virus. In all, there were 82 cases at the correctional facility, none resulting in any deaths.

The wedding reception venue took several precautions including temperature checks and requiring masks, but the CDC said that guests disregarded the mask requirement. The venue also broke the state requirement that wedding receptions be kept to a maximum of 50 guests amid the pandemic.

“Community gatherings such as weddings, birthday parties, church events, and funerals have the potential to be SARS-CoV-2 super-spreading events,” the CDC said. “Increased transmission risk at such events might result from failure to maintain physical distancing and inconsistent use of masks. Transmission risk is further increased when events are held indoors.”

The Maine wedding has been far from the only wedding tied to a super-spreader event. Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed those holding large gatherings after 34 people became infected after attending an Oct. 17 wedding that had 113 guests. New York also has a restriction of wedding receptions attended by more than 50 people.

"As we have seen in weddings and similar events across the country during this pandemic, large gatherings can easily be super-spreader events, too often with dire consequences. Hosting one of these events after all New York has been through is obnoxious and irresponsible - not to mention illegal," Cuomo said. "We are eight months into this pandemic and simply will not tolerate businesses that put New Yorkers at risk. Those who continue to ignore the rules will lose their ability to serve alcohol.”