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Maine CDC issues imminent health hazard citation to Big Moose Inn in Millinocket

Maine CDC is now reporting 32 cases among people associated with a wedding reception at Big Moose Inn. 26 of these cases are confirmed and six are probable.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Editor's Note: The above video aired on Tuesday, August 18.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah reported Thursday that Maine CDC has issued an imminent health hazard citation to the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. The citation notes that the inn exceeded the indoor gathering limit of 50 individuals when it hosted a wedding reception on Friday, August 7.

Maine CDC is now reporting 32 cases associated with the wedding reception. Of those cases, 26 are confirmed and six are probable.

The outbreak was announced by Maine CDC on Monday, August 17.

Maine CDC's investigation has revealed that the wedding ceremony was held at the Tri-Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket. The reception was held at Big Moose Inn. Both gatherings were held on Friday, August 7.

Preliminary interviews suggest there were about 65 people at the wedding and the indoor reception, according to Dr. Shah. 

Dr. Shah said the median age of those who have tested positive is 42 years old, with a range spanning age 4 to age 78. Seven cases right now are among children under the age of 18. 

About 87% of those who have tested positive have been symptomatic. Dr. Shah said it's not uncommon for a high percentage of positive tests to be symptomatic early in an outbreak, because they typically discover those who are positive but asymptomatic later in the investigation.

Five of the cases thus far reside in Somerset County and the rest reside in Penobscot County, according to Dr. Shah. 

One guest reported experiencing symptoms the day after the wedding. However, most of the guests who have tested positive and reported symptoms said they experienced them about four days after the wedding.

NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to Big Moose Inn for comment. We were told the inn will return our call in 3 to 4 business days.

A letter from Millinocket Regional Hospital CEO Dr. Robert Peterson on Wednesday said the hospital has tested more than 300 people and 190 results are pending. 

According to hospital officials, everyone who tested positive for the virus has been instructed to quarantine at home for 14-days, symptomatic or not. 

To keep everyone safe, surgeries and appointments at Millinocket Regional Hospital are being rescheduled.

"At this time, all the individuals who've tested positive are currently being managed as out-patients; with no hospitalization required," Peterson said.

After the outbreak announcement by Maine CDC, the Millinocket Elks Lodge announced its closure, saying it would update the public when more information is available.

The Millinocket branches of Bangor Savings Bank and Katahdin Federal Credit Union have also decided to close their lobby areas just to be extra safe.

"I think until we have better information and we have the details that we need, we are erring on the side of caution, and making sure that we are putting the safety and health of our members and our staff as our major priority here," Alaina Daisey, chief financial officer at Katahdin Federal Credit Union in Millinocket, said.

RELATED: 4 York County Sheriff's Office employees test positive for COVID-19

"It's obviously a big deal for us, we are a small community, we all know each other and so these are our friends and our neighbors that are being affected by this," Daisey added.

Matthew Polstein is the owner at New England Outdoor Center, which is just about a mile away from Big Moose Inn. He tells NEWS CENTER Maine they have taken all the measures possible to keep everyone safe.

"We have reduced the number of seatings slightly further in our restaurant operation, and we are placing a priority focus in serving our in-house guests in those limited seats," Polstein said.

The Maine CDC says those who attend social gatherings should follow physical distancing guidelines, including wearing cloth face coverings when not eating and maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet between people and 6 feet between household groups as much as possible.

Maine CDC also issued the following reminders:

  • The number of individuals who can gather in a shared space must not exceed the limit established by the Governor’s Executive Order, currently set at 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors and fewer if the space cannot accommodate 5 people per 1,000 feet.
    • Further breaking a gathering up into smaller groups is encouraged to reduce potential exposure.
    • If a space cannot accommodate the gathering limit without complying with the 6-foot distancing requirement, occupancy must be limited to allow for such compliance.
  • Face coverings should be worn in public settings when physical distancing is not possible.

For questions specific to cases or potential cases, individuals may call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.

Editor's Note: The video below aired on Tuesday, August 18.