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Millinocket Wedding COVID Outbreak, Fair Questions

August 29th, 2020 No comments

 

This is Blog #3 about the my home town Millinocket , Maine’s  growing and reproducing COVID 19 outbreak.  My heart breaks for the people up home and all of their families.  I am frustrated, but at the same time I want to be fair.

In my last blog, I mentioned a suspect  pastor.  I really wonder about his compliance with COVID preventative steps and seemingly  cavalier attitude about the outbreak from the wedding where he officiated.

I came up with a list of fair questions for him and for all of the other guests and venue workers who attended this wedding, which in turn became a super spreader event.  Granted some of these questions perhaps only the State officials could answer.

1. Were you tested?  Was every other guest and venue worker tested?

2. Were you asked to quarantine for 14 days because of your close and lengthy contact with someone who became sick with COVID?

3. Were you told that a negative test does not mean that you can come out of a 14 day quarantine?

4. Did you quarantine for 14 days from time of contact (Wedding Day)?

5. How long were you asked/required to quarantine if you tested positive or became ill with COVID?      ie. was your quarantine extended and did you comply?

6. Did your household or Church members also become ill?

7. Was the difference between quarantine and isolation explained to you  and did you observe the rules and differences? Information below

I think I find a lot of the answers right here in this Bangor Daily News article that was just sent to me today, but it is not fair to make assumptions.

Still, I fear that we have a Public Health menace in our midst.

https://bangordailynews.com/2020/08/29/news/york/5-people-associated-with-a-sanford-church-have-tested-positive-for-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR1KlTFkrRoogtaNbArtOc48IAGw8stetD4ZclZ72o6TND6ripstt1hg-f0

If these folks from the wedding did not know about their exposure for 5 days or a week, then nobody can fault them for what they did during that time.  If however they continued to gallivant around the town, State or country after being told to quarantine, that is a different story.

There is still a lot we don’t know about the movements of the wedding party, guests and venue workers.  All of us are angry and sad about this.  But, someday we will need to heal, and getting answers is part of that. It’s hard to get past that they ignored a lot preventative rules for the wedding church and venue.  If they continued that careless attitude after learning there was an outbreak, then they need to be accountable to the State of Maine and to all of the people impacted.

The only online conversation by the bridal party that I have seen told me a lot.  They talked about how unfair the media is and how they are like vultures, how persecuted they feel,  how they already had to postpone their wedding once and how they whittled down the guest list.   Some other pretty dismissive comments were made about the outbreak like how it was just like a mild cold or most people don’t even get sick.

They did not mention the poor lady who died, or others who were very sick or mention any feelings/emotions about that.  It would be my extreme pleasure to sit down with the young women who conducted this conversation and give them some lessons on COVID and life in general.  We all have to grow up some time.  And for these girls, now would be a great time for that.

I would like to see one representative from wedding group, come forward.  I would like to hear their side of things, like some answers to the questions I have listed above.  I’d also like to learn about what they are going to change in their own behavior, both personal and professional, to keep this from happening again.  Maybe the pastor could tell us how he will mandate masks at his services, and how he will wear one himself, and offer hand sanitizer, and how he will require members of his flock to sit 6 feet apart.  He could explain how much cleaning and disinfecting he is doing in his Church.  He could tell us how he is educating his flock to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

But most of all, these folks could say something, anything about how bad they feel for the deceased, her family, the others who needed to be hospitalized, and all of the other people who became very sick at home.   They could also apologize to my home town for their carelessness.  And they could offer prayers or some other kind of compassion for all of them.

I don’t think it is too much to ask for .  124 people in this state spread out over many miles,  have been impacted by this single event. Thousands of others around the infected victims have also had their lives altered because of them.   Someone needs to answer some questions.

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-quarantine-and-isolation/art-20484503

“These terms describe approaches for limiting the spread of disease during epidemics and pandemics:

  • Social distancing. Keeping space between yourself and other people outside your household to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Quarantine. Separating people and limiting movement of people who have or may have been exposed to the disease to see if they become ill.
  • Isolation. Separating people who are ill from others who are not ill to keep the disease from spreading”.

Information below from the CDC.

Rules for Quarantine

Jul 22, 2020

When can I stop home isolation after a confirmed case of COVID-19?

If you are a healthcare provider, please follow your supervisor’s recommendations. If you are immunocompromised, please discuss this with your medical provider. Otherwise, if you will not have a test to determine if you are still contagious (most people will not) you can discontinue isolation when:

  1. You have had NO fevers for at least 72 hours (3 full days of no fever without using fever-reducing medicine)
  2. Other symptoms have improved (i.e., your cough or breathing have improved)
  3. At least 10 days have passed since symptom onset

If you had a positive COVID-19 test AND have remained asymptomatic, you may discontinue isolation when at least 10 days have passed since your first positive COVID-19 test. It is important to still wear a face cover over your nose and mouth in public settings after isolation is discontinued.

https://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=Portal%20News&id=3198521&v=article-2017&fbclid=IwAR18BFK6tl-GUiTvZsG6xlYkwNILWlf6CNSBL6opIWHLr5YkrgbGfsp1gJg

 

 

Millinocket Wedding COVID Outbreak. Lessons Learned?

August 26th, 2020 13 comments
Millinocket facing Mount Katahdin

Millinocket facing Mount Katahdin

 

Preface:  I love my beautiful hometown.  I liked it better when we all talked more about the beauty of the region, good times, the resilience, integrity and warmth of  the citizens,  instead of COVID.  We will all work really hard to make it that way again.

My previous blog was about the ongoing heart breaking tragedy in my hometown, Millinocket, Maine. My town  is in the midst of a growing  COVID 19 outbreak.

On August 7, a young couple were married at the Tri Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket, ME. Then they moved the gathering to the Big Moose Inn on Millinocket Lake about 15 miles away.  This should have been a fun, beautiful celebration. The  happy couple, their families and guests should have been able to enjoy this special occasion without a care in the world.  Party on…right?

Wrong, there is a COVID 19 pandemic.

church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Churches and reception venues are under strict State preventative guidance and regulations.  Safe happy celebrations are possible, but unfortunately, they all must be done with special hygienic precautions in mind.  Nobody likes this, and nobody wants to put this cloud over any celebration, but this is life right now. Lives literally depend on everyone following rules.  Deniers of science, and defiance because of God given “rights” to gather and assemble can and will cause very serious problems for people around and with them, and in this case, far beyond. Every single one of us has a responsibility to not only keep ourselves safe, but to also keep everyone around us safe.  We all have this huge responsibility for each other.

bigmooseinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to witnesses, rules were broken.  Distancing, face masks, and  and other mandated precautions were not consistently followed.  The State rule is that 50, NOT 65, people or fewer are allowed for inside gatherings at any venue.  The reception venue was cited and warned, but it remains open.  There has been no citation for the Church, yet.

 

As a result of this celebration, 60 people in the Millinocket region have been infected, one woman has died, and 2 others have been hospitalized.  Beyond Millinocket, there have been 2 related satellite outbreaks, one in at the York, County Sheriffs department (18 victims) and one at a nursing home in Madison (6 victims).  There are primary, secondary and tertiary cases. I don’t know what they are called beyond that even though I am an RN and a certified COVID contact tracer.    I really don’t want to think about “beyond that”.

 

So, from one person, a wedding guest, who was sick the day after the wedding, several more became ill by the 4th day after the wedding and now, 2.5 weeks later, there are at least 84 people infected if I have calculated this correctly.  And it won’t stop there.

 

I am sad for every single one of those infected.  The suffering and fear must be overwhelming.

 

Consider this. If the celebrating guests followed just one of the rules, like wearing masks ,could all of this suffering have been avoided. Certainly a talented seamstress could have made some snazzy wedding masks.   We will never know, but my guess is that YES, it could have prevented this.  In fact, I believe that if ALL the mandates had been followed that this outbreak was 100% preventable.

 

There was no evil intent in what has happened ‘up home’. There was irresponsibility and selfishness. However, some things that are emerging from this disaster are enraging.  Others are heartbreaking.   I have spent the past week talking with friends and family from home.  I have absorbed their fear, pain, and frustration.  One person in particular has suffered immeasurable worry and pain.  Two of his relatives have been infected and the results tragic. At the same time he is obligated to be in a different state because his business was impacted because of COVID.  I can’t imagine the pain or frustration.  An he and his family is just one of the many who are hurting.  I am working very hard to encourage all of these people, who have been so horribly affected, to share their stories with all of us through reporters and social media.  Their stories teach us all things about keeping ourselves and our own family’s safe.

 

And then there are the comments and actions of some people involved with this wedding.
The minister who flew  his private plane in from Sanford Maine, to officiate at the offending wedding and then go fishing, (photos of himself flying and associated text purged from his FB page) seems to have disappeared from social media.  He refuses to talk with reporters.The owner of the reception venue has also refused to talk with reporters. There has not been one public word that I am aware of that about regret, sadness or concern for the people who became sick at this wedding.. just deafening silence…..and this
BELL
I’m betting those quoted words got him some singing, amens, praise and laughs. I find it arrogant and dismissive.  It sends puffs of steam out of both ears!
He  flew home from Millinocket the day after this wedding  (FB photo/text also disappeared)
He proceeded to officiate other church events during the 14 day quarantine period after the Millinocket event. (documented with dates on his Church FB page).
Then he flew his plane to Oxford ME (photo purged from Facebook)
He also has given a live sermon espousing his flock’s “rights to assemble and gather” in church (on one of his Church FB pages). Technically this is true, but gatherings must comply with State regulations.
His instructions for his Christian Academy students say that MASKS are OPTIONAL at SCHOOL.  Ironically this very school was forced to close for a Flu outbreak last February. Link attached.
I don’t know if he was tested for COVID, but we KNOW that he was exposed at the wedding and was likely advised to quarantine in case he was an asymptomatic infected contact.  Dr Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, said in his twice weekly televised report yesterday that a negative test is not a ticket out of quarantine.

All of the above information was found on his personal FB page (now purged)  and /or his school’s  and church’s webpage (some information still exists).

I truly believe that all places of worship and their leaders need to do what is recommended by the State of Maine for all of our safety.  They need to be good citizens, just like the rest of us, if we are ever to get past this pandemic.  I believe most of them are following the rules, but certainly not all are.
This is a problem.  The above preacher is a leader in the evangelical Christian community in Maine who is doing these things..after officiating a celebration that quickly became a super COVID spreading event in my home town and State of Maine. He oversees other Churches all over Maine, and Christian academies.  And if I am correct, the events I listed above were done during the time that he should have been quarantined. I don’t blame him for the sickness, but I do call him out for his lack of regret and his recklessness. He is playing fast and free with the rules and his community.   And again,  has not  publicly expressed one word of compassion for those affected by this tragic outbreak.
Now that his quarantine time is over, I wish he would teach his flock about how to prevent all of this from happening again and express his support of State mandates to stop this pandemic.  And it wouldn’t hurt to offer a few kind words of concern for those who became ill, and who have lost a family member and all of the other thousands people in the Millinocket region who are now hunkered down again because of an outbreak. His arrogance is pretty hard to get past. Apparently this man thinks he only answers to God and is not responsible in any way for Mainers beyond who is in front of him.  My mother’s words taught me and the Bible teaches us to “do onto others as you would have others do onto you”?  I know my comments sound judgmental, but I don’t apologize. In normal times, some of this minister’s adventures would be lovely, inspiring and uplifting, but in COVID times  and after an exposure to the COVID, it is reprehensible. How can he be this cavalier?
This is what I think.  Governor Mills and her investigative and enforcement team has to stop super spreader events.  A random FB poster left a comment on the Bangor Daily News FB page,  that a wedding event on private property is coming up this weekend in Stockton Springs/Searsport and the guests have been asked to NOT wear masks.  I think that anyone who spots this kind of information should have a way to send it to the regulators and they should be stopped. I think we need to put the fear of GOD into folks who are denying and defying the preventative rules and that huge fines and criminal charges should ensue.   People are criticizing our Governor, but she has governed Maine according to established science.  Now I want to see her put some sharp teeth into her regulations…very sharp teeth that bite.  Our families, friends and communities rely on it for our lives and safety. This all would sound like drama in normal times before COVID…not anymore.
No more Mr Nice guy.

Going forward we need to use the philosophy of lessons learned, lessons taught. Every single one of us has to take what we have learned from this outbreak, and use it to be responsible for our own, and our community’s safety.   We will all be happy to see this pandemic behind us so we can have a change of subject.  We can talk about the beauty around us, and awesome people again.  Most of that is still around us.

https://bangordailynews.com/2020/08/29/news/how-a-single-wedding-changed-the-complexion-of-maines-coronavirus-outbreak/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-maine-wedding-covid-outbreak-jail-indoor-reception-millinocket/

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/08/25/metro/millinocket-maine-wedding-covid-19-outbreak-linked-clusters-nursing-home-jail/

https://www.facebook.com/calvarybaptistmaine  demonstrates how busy Rev Bell was for 2 weeks after his exposure

https://wgme.com/news/local/two-maine-school-closed-due-to-flu

Wedding COVID 19 outbreak, Millinocket, ME

August 20th, 2020 7 comments

In 1970, I graduated from nursing school.  Before our graduation, my best friend and room mate all through school had asked me to be her Maid of Honor.  I was so excited to do it.  So, we packed up our stuff and went home to Millinocket, Maine to prepare for her big special event.  I had also been hired to work as a nurse at the Millinocket Regional Hospital, my first nursing job.  I got sick the day before the wedding.  My throat was killing me.  I had a fever.  I was a mess.  But, I made a promise to my friend and I kept it.  I walked down the aisle ahead of her.  She was a gorgeous happy bride.  I dragged my sorry butt through the reception after.  I hugged and kissed people.I hope nobody got sick because of me.  I had Strep throat.

The day after the wedding I had to travel to Augusta, Maine and stay 2 days to sit for my RN nursing license boards.  I stayed alone (thank goodness) and I sucked down aspirin the whole time.  The next two days, I filled my pockets with tissues, took my aspirin, and sat in a roomful of other new graduates and started my 2 day long test.

When I finished my second day of testing, I drove home to Millinocket and went to bed for a few days and got antibiotics.  How many people did I expose to my Strep throat? How many got sick. I’ll never know.  I was a dumb kid, and nursing school never discouraged us from showing up for classes if we were sick.  In later years my places of employment were irritated if I missed work because I was sick, so I showed up. So I went to places like my friends wedding and my testing site with my germs and exposed a couple hundred people.

So, when I read about the COVID19 outbreak in Millinocket after a wedding with 65 guests, I paused.  How could I be ticked off at this bunch of folks when I did the same thing as a younger woman..a nurse no less.  Well, let’s see.   COVID19 is different from Strep or the flu or a cold.  It is much more deadly and contagious. There is no cure or vaccination.  170,000 Americans have died because of it since March.   I’m not excusing my irresponsibility , but honestly?  We have all had this kind of information fed to us daily for months!   Maine has been one of the best 2 States for preventing the spread of COVID.    There is a reason for that.  Our Governor Mills has taken it very seriously from the beginning.  She has met resistance,hatred, threats and lawsuits the entire time.  But, she has followed science and made recommendations and mandates based on science.  Her compadre Dr Nirav Shah is one of the smartest, kindest, most diplomatic infectious disease experts I have known.  He is the Director of the Maine CDC.

Articles in the Bangor Daily News have revealed that 65 guests were at the event.  It was held in East Millinocket at the Tri Town Baptist Church.

church  The reception party moved to a gorgeous venue at Millinocket Lake called the Big Moose Inn. My guess is that they had a wonderful time and the photos are gorgeous.  I congratulate the Bride and Groom and family.bigmooseinn

But someone was irresponsible. Maine mandates that any commercial events held inside must accomodate 50 people or fewer.  Guests must be distanced and wear masks unless eating.  Outside events can be up to 100 people, with similar rules.  It seems that somebody fudged on the rules.  These events take special planning now…and rules are shared and should be enforced.  Who was responsible for this scary mess…the family?  the happy couple?  the venue?  WHO?

The COVID 19 virus rode into that wedding in a human body, either a guest or a worker, where most likely rules for prevention were broken. According to the latest CDC report, one person became sick the day after the wedding.  He/she was likely the source, and was probably asymptomatic on the day of the event.  Covid then hitched a ride in another person, and another and another until most of the party was exposed, and 32 people tested positive.  That 32 people went in multiple directions after the wedding.  Then the COVID spread itself into 32 homes (assuming none of the positive victims were couples) and into 32 or so workplaces, and a multitude of businesses and offices, ball games, parties etc. At the end of this blog there is a letter from Millinocket Regional Hospital CEO, Dr Robert Peterson dated August 20, 2020.  So far I know of 3 close communities affected and possibly a more remote one.

mrh

3oo people tested, 190 tests pending, 32 people tested positive and 1 so far, has been admitted to the hospital.  The median age of the victims is 42, and 87% of them are symptomatic.  This will change.  4 days after the event, several more people became ill.  That is a common number of days from contact to sickness (incubation period), but it may go up to 14 days.   The State of Maine has issued a imminent health hazard citation for Big Moose Inn.

Wow. This is what rule breaking can get you. Now this business’s future relies on them following the rules. This has made tons of people sick and interrupted the lives of thousands of community members, businesses, churches, town offices/services, and hospital and medical services.  The impact is on public health and economic health.

This Millinocket outbreak was preventable.  We have all been warned about COVID19.  We have been constantly and doggedly educated about how to stop the spread.  Everything was shut down to stop the spread back in March and April and then later we were given guidance on how to re open safely.  Anyone who follows the news on TV, in the newspaper, or on social media knows about all of this..about the risks and the lives lost.  They also know what the recommendations are to stop the spread. Little kids get this.

Individuals have been asked to do simple things to protect ourselves and others.

1. Socially distance when outside your home and wear a mask.

2. Wash your hands frequently

3. Stay home if you are sick.

Special more complicated guidance is given for places of business, schools and such.

We are warned and taught these things at our workplaces, in our schools, at our doctors offices and hospitals.  It is pretty hard to escape a good solid education about the prevention of COVID.

For the average individual citizen,this is not rocket science.  It is all pretty simple stuff.  Even as a new RN in 1970, I didn’t have this kind of guidance.   I have never seen illness like this, all around us, in every corner of the State, Country and World.  COVID spreads like wildfire and it can be deadly, especially for vulnerable people like the elderly, disabled, and chronically compromised.

People have chosen to defy and deny these simple instructions for prevention.  In fact there are groups who actively do sketchy things to avoid the rules, and the result is more COVID infections.    Here is a Facebook post from a woman who wanted to help new brides to have safe weddings…and this is what she found.

“I have a good friend who’s a florist who joined a Covid Brides group thinking she could help people. She said that what she learned was horrible. Most of the brides were exchanging ideas of how to lie to venues, get false test papers for out-of-state guests, appear to be following guidelines while not, etc. and demonstrated horrible disregard for the venues, vendors, communities and guests. They included “cheat sheets”  and also black-balled businesses and vendors who wouldn’t comply with demands and worked together to bomb those businesses’social media with negative reviews. She left the group.”

Other examples of this kind of behavior are displayed in videos of customers fighting with retailers for enforcing mask rules, and others coughing or spitting on them.  This is not only sickening, it is assault.  And it is incredibly stupid.

I am sick over my hometown’s suffering because of irresponsible rule breakers and defiance of science.  The rules are to protect ALL of us.  COVID doesn’t care who you vote for, what color you are, what church you go to, how smart or dumb you are….it will infect you if you are careless.  If you are infected and you defy the rules around others, you WILL infect someone else.

If you care about staying COVID free yourself, follow the recommendations.  If you care about others, do the same.  It is the only way we will put an end to this nightmare.

hospital letter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://bangordailynews.com/2020/08/19/news/did-they-have-to-have-their-wedding-katahdin-region-comes-to-grips-with-virus-outbreak/

https://bangordailynews.com/2020/08/20/news/penobscot/inn-that-hosted-millinocket-wedding-reception-cited-for-violating-maine-virus-gathering-limits/

ADDENDUM:

One victim from this COVID outbreak has died.  Here is today’s notice from Millinocket Regional Hospital.  mrh2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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