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Millinocket Wedding COVID Outbreak. Lessons Learned?

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.











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.









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


  1. Anne
    August 26th, 2020 at 22:39 | #1

    Brilliant. Nice bit of writing. Pastor should be humble enough to quarantine. Egos need to stand down until we get this virus under control.

  2. Christine Anzalone
    August 27th, 2020 at 05:23 | #2

    Thank you, Kathy! Well written!

  3. August 27th, 2020 at 06:57 | #3

    Hey Kathy…..exquisitely and honestly written. THanks for sharing the facts. Those of us in So. Maine are getting what we can from this, so…thanks for making it shareable.

  4. Bill Luth
    August 27th, 2020 at 07:39 | #4

    It is sad when people believe in god rather than science. God is a fairytale! The Bible is a novel!
    I stay home as much as possible and when I need to go out I always wear a mask. This is just decency. The pastors arrogance is just so damaging to humanity. It is only sad when people behave in this matter.

  5. Kathy
    August 27th, 2020 at 08:11 | #5

    @Bill Luth
    Thank you for your comment. And thank you for working to stay safe and protect others. However, I did not write this to condemn religion or the faithful. I wrote it to point out irresponsible and arrogant behavior. It is also about lessons learned or that should have been learned. I would have written something similar about any other public figure. I admire people with great faith and I appreciate and love real Christians who are generous, kind and considerate. I just wanted to make that clear.

  6. Thomas
    August 28th, 2020 at 08:14 | #6

    Kathy, I found his previous plane : https://flightaware.com/resources/registration/N2105B (its the one in his photo on his blog (archived, in case he deletes it https://web.archive.org/web/20200828125901/https://calvaryofsanford.blogspot.com/ ) If you happen to get the the registration for his New plane, you cna track where its been on flight aware as well.

  7. August 28th, 2020 at 08:35 | #7

    I’m honored that you like my photo of Millinocket so much that you want to use it on your blog post. But, it’s a violation of federal copyright laws to use ANY photo without first asking permission. (I’m talking about the one you’ve labeled “MILLINOCKET FACING MOUNT KATAHDIN”) Please contact me via my email today and we can discuss the prices I charge for using my photos. Thanks.

  8. Crystal Helmreich
    August 28th, 2020 at 08:43 | #8

    Wonderful piece of intelligent, fact based writing! Thank You

  9. Kathy
    August 28th, 2020 at 09:20 | #9

    @Michele Stapleton
    I apologize and I have removed that photo. I did not see that it was copyrighted, and it was a mistake. I actually found a similar photo in my own pictures so I have managed to put that on my post. I’m sorry about my mistake.

  10. Diane Noddin
    August 28th, 2020 at 15:12 | #10

    Kathy would like to share this so all my friends can read this–wonderful job Kathy. The woman that Died was our Aunt and our Uncle is still hospitalized due to Covid.

  11. BonnieRaymond
    August 28th, 2020 at 16:15 | #11

    @Bill Luth
    It’s up to the individual whether either god or science is ‘a fairytale’.
    IMO, the failures of insight belong to the individual, not to god or science.
    Many people are careful believers in both.

  12. d
    August 28th, 2020 at 18:22 | #12

    You should check out some of the reddit discussions about this: https://www.reddit.com/r/Maine/comments/igtj2e/big_moose_inn_covid_wedding_public_statement_by/

  13. Diane Noddin
    August 28th, 2020 at 18:56 | #13

    thank-you Kathy this info is all true. Im the Noddin from the noddins flower shop on Penobscot ave for 30 years–retired now-yes Chip is our cousin–such a sad time for this area right now. I put this on my timeline so all my family and friends can read this.

  14. c
    September 2nd, 2020 at 14:25 | #14

    Hi Kathy, this is a great blog post. Wanted to alert you to some new information coming out about this case with the wedding:


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