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Maine wedding now linked to deaths of 7 people who didn't attend

Outbreaks at a rehabilitation center and a county jail have been linked to the wedding and reception in August.

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak linked to an indoor wedding and reception in Maine has risen to seven, with the number of cases connected to the event up to 176.

The latest death was reported at the Maplecrest Rehabilitation Center in Madison, where five prior deaths were also deemed connected to the Aug. 7 wedding and reception. One person died at a hospital in the Millinocket area, a spokesman for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

About 65 people attended the event, in violation of Gov. Janet Mills' executive order limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, the Maine CDC has said.

The wedding ceremony was held at Tri Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket, about 63 miles north of Bangor, and a reception was held at the Big Moose Inn Cabins and Campground in Millinocket.

A person who answered the phone Tuesday at Big Moose Inn said they are not commenting and the church could not immediately be reached.

None of the seven people who have died attended the wedding or the reception.

But among those who did attend the event was an employee of the York County Jail, where 72 cases have been linked to the gathering, health officials have said.

Maine health officials have also said the wedding and reception are tied to the virus' spread at a Madison rehabilitation center.

And, the state is investigating whether an outbreak at Calvary Baptist Church, whose pastor officiated at the wedding, is linked to the event. The church is tied to at least 10 cases.

The Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, Maine.
The Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, Maine.NECN

In a statement Tuesday, the church said a number of its members attended the wedding reception and it defended its right to continue holding services.

“The Calvary Baptist Church has a legal right to meet. The authority of a local Christian church, a Jewish synagogue, or a Muslim mosque to gather for their respective religious services is a time-honored part of our nation’s history since its inception,” the statement said, according to The Associated Press. “These religious activities are also fully protected under the First Amendment to our United States Constitution.

The number of cases stemming from the wedding and reception has steadily grown.

In August, health officials said they had identified 18 people who tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the event. Another six people who had close contact with those attendees also tested positive, according to a state press release on Aug. 17.

By the first week of September, nearly 150 cases and three deaths were linked to the event.

State health officials did not immediately release details on the seventh death. Maplecrest Rehabilitation Center did not immediately respond to requests for comment.