A wedding reception in Maine led to three separate Covid-19 outbreaks that infected 117 people, putting three into the hospital and killing seven more, health investigators reported Thursday.
None of those who got seriously ill or died even went to the wedding, and many lived 100 miles away. It is a case study of how failure to follow social distancing and masking guidelines can have far-reaching consequences, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its weekly report.
“The bride, groom, and groom’s family (seven persons) traveled from California to Maine on August 6,” the researchers wrote. No one quarantined. But the index patient, the researchers said, was a Maine resident whose symptoms began the day after the wedding.
The wedding reception took place on August 7 and included 55 people. Maine guidelines allow no more than 50 people at an indoor gathering. Guests were seated 6-8 people per table, and remained in close contact during the event.
While event staff conducted temperature checks and wore masks, further mitigation efforts fell by the wayside. “Although the facility had signs posted at the entrance instructing visitors to wear masks, guests did not comply with this requirement nor maintain a physical distance of at least six feet, and staff members did not enforce these measures,” the researcher wrote.
Five days after the wedding, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention received reports that two guests had tested positive. Thirty guests and vendors eventually tested positive for Covid-19 within two weeks of the reception. The small town where the wedding was held had not seen a single case of Covid-19 before the wedding, but afterwards, 27 citizens who had not attended the wedding tested positive, and one died.
One guest who tested positive developed a cough, yet attended an in-person school meeting, taking no precautions. Later, two school staff members tested positive, and school openings were delayed for two weeks while exposed staff quarantined.
But the spread went even further afield.
“In addition to the community outbreak, secondary and tertiary transmission led to outbreaks at a long-term care facility 100 miles away and at a correctional facility approximately 200 miles away,” wrote the researchers.
One wedding guest infected a parent who worked at the long-term care facility and one guest worked at the corrections facility. Both continued to work while experiencing Covid-19 symptoms that included cough, fever, and a loss of taste. The outbreak at the corrections facility infected 82 people, most of them staff, while the outbreak at the care facility infected 38. Three care facility residents were hospitalized, and six died.
Conditions within the corrections facility also likely aided viral spread. “The facility had not implemented daily symptom screening for staff members or enforced regular use of masks after the first case was identified,” said the authors. The corrections facility did eventually practice these measures after the outbreak began.
The total toll is likely an undercount, the researchers said, because the investigators never were given a guest list to track down everyone who may have been affected.