49 Cases of COVID Linked to Small Church Event in Maine — and Officials Expect Number to Rise

"We understand the fear and frustration some have felt," the church's pastor said in a statement on Facebook

Brooks Pentecostal Church in Waldo County, Maine
Photo: Google Maps

At least 49 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) after a church event in Maine, health officials say.

The outbreak has been connected to the Brooks Pentecostal Church in Waldo County, and Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, said in a press conference on Thursday that officials "expect that number to increase over the next days," CNN reports.

Three people have been hospitalized while the other 46 recover from home, according to the outlet. CNN also reported that Shah estimates that between 100 and 150 people attended the event at the center of the outbreak earlier this month.

In a statement on the church's Facebook page posted Tuesday, pastor M.W. Shaw said the church "will be addressing our continuity of worship in a safe and orderly manner."

"Our church has been following quarantine measures since before any positive tests were reported. We continue to diligently encourage any that are symptomatic or feel as though they need to be tested, to test," read the statement.

"Though the origin of the virus is unclear, we will be addressing all recommendations and guidelines provided to us by the CDC. ... We understand the fear and frustration some have felt," Shaw added.

In July, more than 650 confirmed cases of the coronavirus were tied to nearly 40 reopened churches and religious events. An August wedding ceremony in Maine that had 65 attendees also led to more than 175 cases and seven deaths, officials said last month.

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According to data compiled by The New York Times, there have been 8.4 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 223,023 deaths, as of Friday morning. There were 70,451 new cases of coronavirus last Friday, the highest daily case count since July, the Times’ database shows. The Midwest has been particularly hard hit in recent months.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the rise in cases is “not a good sign as you’re entering into the colder weather,” advising Americans to consider canceling family gatherings for Thanksgiving.

"That is, unfortunately, a risk, when you have people coming from out of town, gathering together in an indoor setting," he told host Norah O’Donnell on CBS Evening News last week. "It is unfortunate, because that's such a sacred part of American tradition — the family gathering around Thanksgiving. But that is a risk."

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