A wedding held in Maine weeks ago has been blamed for outbreaks of COVID-19 in multiple surrounding areas. Guests at the August wedding reportedly didn’t practice social distancing and largely didn’t wear masks. Now experts are linking the ceremony to 176 total COVID infections — along with the deaths of several who didn’t even attend.
Meanwhile, the wedding’s officiant, Reverend Todd Bell, remains defiant. His church encourages congregants not to wear masks, and in one sermon he urged people to put their trust in God over the government, going so far as to question the wisdom of wearing masks.
A Single Wedding in Maine
The event was held in the Maine town of Millinocket on August 7, according to CBS News. After a ceremony at the Tri Town Baptist Church, 65 guests reportedly gathered at the Big Moose Inn for the reception.
According to the outlet, the state limit for indoor events is 50 people. The 65 wedding guests combined with other attendees not associated with the wedding brought the total to over 100. State officials told press that many attendees did not wear masks or socially distance.
Since then, health officials have traced multiple outbreaks to guests of the event. One attendee reportedly worked at a jail 220 miles away, which now has more than 70 cases.
Officials have also linked the wedding to an outbreak at a nursing home in Madison, Maine. According to the Bangor Daily News, a child who attended the wedding passed the virus to a parent, who in turn passed it to an employee of Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center. The facility eventually detected 39 cases.
So far, officials have linked seven deaths to the wedding. The first was a resident of Millinocket, which had previously gone several weeks without cases. The rest of the deaths were residents of Maplecrest. None of the deceased had been in attendance at the wedding.
Potential Setbacks for COVID Relief
The Maine Center for Disease Control said the wedding could have a big impact on the state’s battle with COVID-19. Director Dr. Nirav Shah warned that the COVID-19 could now become “the uninvited guest at every single wedding, party or event in Maine.”
“It is spreading in the community in and around York County with remarkable force,” said Dr. Shah.
As stated, Reverend Bell has remained unapologetic about the event, taking to social media to dismiss critics.
“Would you rather your pastor study the Bible this morning or read all 3,000 comments of negativity?” he wrote. “You don’t want the pastor who is being ruled by untrue comments. You want the pastor who’s being ruled by Jesus Christ. So I’ve come to Christ — I encourage you to do the same.”
According to CBS, Bell has continued to hold services at his church without masks or social distancing. In one sermon, he reportedly compared wearing a mask to using a chain-link fence to keep out mosquitoes.
The outlet reports that around 10 congregants of Bell’s church have tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, the daughter of a Maplecrest resident had harsh words for the event’s organizers.
“I’m glad they got the greatest day of their life,” said Amanda Roy, whose 61-year-old mother Anna Littlejohn tested positive for the virus. “But it made a nightmare and probably the worst days of some other people’s lives.”
The couple who married at the ceremony, Spencer and Mariah Ross, have declined multiple requests for comment, according to the Bangor Daily News.
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