The number of COVID-19 cases connected to an outbreak at a Waldo County church nearly doubled in one day, from 17 Sunday to 32 Monday.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday it will release more information about its outbreak investigation at Brooks Pentecostal Church and its affiliated school, Lighthouse Christian Academy, at a media briefing led by Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah on Tuesday.

Waldo County has had a total of 124 cases since the pandemic began in March. That includes an outbreak in April at the Tall Pines Retirement and Healthcare Community in Belfast that resulted in 43 cases – 32 residents and 11 staff – and 13 deaths.

A sign on the door of Brooks Pentecostal Church announces that Sunday services Oct. 18 and evening prayer this week are canceled after an outbreak of COVID-19 was reported. Photo by Carolyn Zachary/Village Soup

A sign on the church door said services were canceled Sunday and prayer services scheduled for Wednesday would be canceled, according to the Republican Journal in Belfast. Also, Brooks town officials are reassessing plans for Halloween, the Brooks Thrift Shop is closed and a fundraising tea for the Brooks Historical Society that had been set for Oct. 25 has been canceled, the Belfast newspaper reported.

Matthew Shaw, the pastor at Brooks Pentecostal Church, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Statewide, Maine reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and no additional deaths.

The outbreak in Brooks is the second involving a Maine church since the pandemic began. In August, an outbreak of at least 10 cases was reported at Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford.

Overall, Maine has reported 5,962 COVID-19 cases and 146 deaths. The seven-day daily average of new cases was 33.9 Monday, compared to 31.7 two weeks ago and 28.6 a month ago. The seven-day average positivity rate, the percentage of tests that are returned positive, was 0.49 percent Monday. The rate has hovered around 0.5 to 0.6 percent over the past month, compared to a nationwide average of about 5 percent. Lower positivity rates mean that public health workers have a better chance of following up on cases and curtailing outbreaks.

The Maine CDC advises that anyone who spent time at Brooks Pentecostal Church or its school since Oct. 2 should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, which include shortness of breath, cough, fever, fatigue, headaches, loss of taste or smell, and other symptoms.

Anyone who attended a fellowship rally that the congregation hosted Oct. 2-4 could have been exposed to the virus and should take precautions, the CDC said, including quarantining and getting tested.

Videos of recent services at the church show worshippers gathering close together without wearing masks. Videos of services at Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford from this summer also show people gathering close together without masks. The Calvary Baptist pastor, Todd Bell, officiated a wedding in the Millinocket area, the same wedding and reception linked to a “super-spreading” event that caused nearly 200 cases throughout the state. Maine CDC officials have said they don’t have conclusive evidence that the Calvary Baptist outbreak was related to the Millinocket area outbreak.

Those who gather indoors in crowds without wearing masks are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, public health experts say.

In other coronavirus-related developments Monday, Maine Medical Center Research Institute announced a $203,000 grant to participate in a national centralized database to study COVID-19 and its potential treatments. The grant – from West Virginia University – is a partnership among 35 institutions.

Also on Monday, the Maine State Prison in Warren reported one positive case of COVID-19, a staff member. Universal testing at the facility has begun.

Hospitalizations remained low Monday, with eight people hospitalized and none in intensive care.

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