BROOKS, Maine (AP) — A coronavirus outbreak centered around a church in a small town in Maine has grown to more than 40 cases and could spread significantly, public health authorities in the state said Tuesday.
The outbreak began at Brooks Pentecostal Church in the small Waldo County town of Brooks, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. The outbreak has sickened people age 2 to 80, he said.
The outbreak appears to stem from a fellowship event earlier this month in which masks were available but not routinely used, Shah said. Seven of the 42 cases are located at a school associated with the church, he said.
Maine CDC investigators have found coronavirus cases linked to the outbreak at an assisted living facility and four schools in the Waldo County area, Shah said. Shah stressed that those facilities are not consider the sources of outbreaks themselves.
The growing outbreak is evidence that people need to continue following safety recommendations, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said. That means observing social distancing and wearing masks, she said.
“It's not that anyone involved in these outbreaks is malicious, but the stark reality is anyone can cause an outbreak,” Mills said. “We can't let our guard down.”
In other news related to the pandemic in Maine:
Mills said she was “disappointed” that Vice President Mike Pence, a Republican, held a campaign rally in Hermon on Monday that appeared to exceed the state's attendance limit for outdoor gatherings.
Pence held the event to tout President Donald Trump's reelection bid and promote Maine Republicans. The state limits outdoor gatherings to 100 people. Maine Republican Party Jason Savage said there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people in attendance.
Savage was dismissive of criticism of the event on Monday.
“I guess we’ll have to call it a 'peaceful protest.' Gov. Mills and her pals should be fine then,” Savage said in an e-mail.
Another 33 coronavirus cases have been reported in the state, the Maine CDC reported Tuesday.
That brings the total number of coronavirus cases in Maine to 5,989, while the number of deaths remained at 146, officials said. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine was about 35, which was about three more than it was a week ago.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Restaurants and retailers will be allowed to continue operating outdoors through the holiday season in Maine's biggest city.
The Portland City Council approved a plan Monday night that extends through Jan. 4 provisions letting businesses operate on private property, public sidewalks and in parking lanes.
“Certainly most people in the city are more comfortable dining outdoors than they are indoors right now, so we’re hoping that will provide some flexibility and relief for businesses that are really struggling right now,” Councilor Justin Costa said.
In the Old Port, Dana, Milk, Exchange and Wharf streets are closed. Under the plan, all of these roads will reopen to traffic and parking except Dana Street from Fore to Wharf streets and Wharf Street from Union to Dana streets. Businesses on Middle Street may continue to use the parking lane with some changes to help with winter operations.
City Manager Jon Jennings said the plan accounts for safety and public health standards, along with expeditious removal of snow.
Businesses will have to reapply for a permit to continue outdoor dining, but all fees have been waived.