A coronavirus outbreak at a Maine church is being investigated by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Maine CDC said at least five confirmed COVID-19 cases have been linked to the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford.
The state health agency stated on its website that it is conducting an epidemiological investigation that includes looking into how these cases could be affiliated with other outbreaks in York and Penobscot counties.
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The Maine CDC said in a news release that those who attended services from Aug. 9 through Aug. 23 at the Calvary Baptist Church or the church’s vacation bible school from Aug. 10 through Aug. 14 may have been potentially exposed. The state health agency said more ongoing exposures are possible and asked those connected with the church to monitor symptoms of the novel coronavirus. A list of those symptoms from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can be found here.
The Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford is the most recent COVID-19 outbreak connected to an August wedding in Millinocket, according to the local outlet News Center Maine. The news outlet said the church’s pastor, Todd Bell, officiated the August wedding at Millinocket, which was reportedly linked to at least 87 cases of novel coronavirus and one death. The church reportedly still held services Sunday, according to the article on the news site.
“I went to the wedding. I officiated the wedding. It was a beautiful wedding,” Bell told the congregation Sunday, according to the news outlet’s report. “Six families from our church went there. We never expected to get COVID. Nobody expected to experience the things that happened because you went to a beautiful thing like that.”
The state health agency stated individuals who may have been exposed to the virus or show symptoms of novel coronavirus should consult with their health care provider about the need to be tested.
Maine’s CDC also said those who were exposed to the virus, regardless if they have symptoms or not, may get a COVID-19 test under the Department of Health and Human Services Standing Order. A list of sites offering testing under the HHS standing order can be found on the Keep Maine Healthy website.
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The Maine CDC stated that people who have symptoms of coronavirus should not attend gatherings or go to work. The agency recommends following proper handwashing techniques, maintain social distancing, and wear a face mask in public places, including gathering at religious services.
The federal CDC agency issued guidelines for faith-based organizations to limit exposure and spread of the novel coronavirus as churches reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the suggestions on the federal health agency’s website included: limit gathering size and maintain social distancing, consider outdoor services and virtual access for those who are at high risk, limit the sharing of religious objects like prayer books and other worship aides, and consider alternative methods of collecting financial contributions to avoid the passing of collection baskets, and limit physical contact such as shaking hands and hugging amongst community members.