A COVID-19 outbreak that has been linked to a Millinocket wedding was more than just an inauspicious start to one couple’s married life.

This unfortunate incident should send a message across the state that despite our low infection rates, the coronavirus is in Maine, and it will spread if we don’t continue to be vigilant about observing public health guidelines.

This is not only an issue for people planning to host a wedding. It should also be remembered by owners and customers of public-facing businesses like restaurants and retail stores. School officials and parents should also look at what happened in Millinocket this summer as they figure out how to apply the state’s guidelines in their communities.

In an attempt to protect the health information of the people involved, the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention has not released some details about the wedding. The secrecy may be well intentioned, but it is keeping information from the public that could help other people better protect themselves.

However, the state CDC has revealed enough to make it clear that this is an important story.

At least 28 people associated with a wedding held at the Big Moose Inn on Aug. 7 have tested positive for COVID. Eighteen of the people attended the reception and 10 had close contact with attendees.

The state reports that about 65 people attended the event, but it did not reveal whether it was held outside, where gatherings of up to 100 people are allowed, or inside, where gatherings are limited to 50 people. It also didn’t report whether guests at the wedding wore facial coverings, which are required statewide.

It would be helpful to know if wedding participants and the facility were following the state’s COVID restrictions, but we do know that the virus spread rapidly.

All of the people who tested positive were Maine residents and are being treated as outpatients at the local Millinocket Regional Hospital. This is a fact that needs to be stressed: We don’t need visitors from COVID hot spots to introduce the virus – it’s already here. We can’t treat this pandemic as if it’s a problem only for urban areas, because the virus can reach any place where there are people.

That’s why parents and school officials around the state should think of this incident as a cautionary tale. Maine’s low infection rate is not a sign that we are somehow immune from the virus, or that the time to worry about spreading it has passed.

Until there is a widely distributed COVID-19 vaccine, we need to act as if the virus is everywhere, because it could be anywhere.

 


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