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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.

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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

My COVID 19 sense of things

May 4th, 2020 5 comments

Crowd in Texas chants 'fire Fauci' as thousands across the country ...

How do we mesh these two images?  We don’t, because they don’t mesh.

I am a 71 year old nurse.  I graduated 50 years ago and our nursing school class was set to celebrate this year, but COVID 19 put an indefinite delay on that.  Who would have guessed any of us would see anything like this in our life times?

I have socially distanced with my husband and my dog for about 6 weeks now.  Early worries were about having enough food and toilet paper, but like most things those things have worked out.  My greater worry now is will our society condone that older citizens are disposable.  It seems that some sectors do believe exactly that.

While this pandemic continues to ravage some areas of our country and on a smaller scale, my home State of Maine, crazed citizens are loudly and in some cases threateningly demonstrating in our Capitols and on our streets to “open America”.  This is a chant that their hero, President Trump, has continually hammered home for weeks now.  He hasn’t grieved the over 60,000 dead or offered condolences or contacted any of the surviving families. Instead he repeatedly tells us we must open up, and at the same time he ignores the warnings about the steps to take that will make this opening safer for all of us.  He makes false claims that testing is robust, and huge numbers of citizens will be tested before opening. And he has repeatedly given all of us lousy medical advice, ie. injecting disinfectants to cure COVID.   More recently, his followers have said that the vulnerable (like me)  can continue to “isolate” if they don’t want to get infected and die.  Isn’t that special of them?  It seems a better approach would be to make it safe for all of us to be back to our normal lives eventually.

“Freedom” lovers want what they want…..crowded bars and sports games, all businesses open and rolling in dough.  I want that too.  I want everything to go back to normal, but I don’t want MY life, or my husbands or any of my loved ones lives sacrificed for it.  I am one of those libs, or cowards or Commies, whatever the gun toting, swastika carrying, ranting and raving lunatics call me…and I want my LIFE.  I want to live and I want to do it without the experience of COVID 19 and all of the perils it carries.

So, if we “Open America” without taking the necessary professionally recommended steps, who will die?  Well, if I don’t stay in my house all the time…ME.  I could die, and my husband could because we are seniors.  People who work in meat plants could die, because their bosses won’t be doing the recommended testing and other screening.  Some have already become ill, but our President used the Defense production act to make them reopen, regardless of the threat of more illness and death.  And of course nurses,doctors and other first responders are dying.  They have been forced to work without adequate Personal Protective Equipment, but the president would not invoke the Defense production act to get more PPE manufactured and distributed.  Instead he has set up a situation whereby States have been forced to find their own gear, and to compete against each other for needed medical equipment.  When governors ordered Chinese masks and they  arrived at a port of entry, they were seized by the federal government.  Then of course essential retail store workers will die.  Those familiar grocery and Walmart clerks will be at increased risk of the infection.  Prisoners and homeless people will die too.  People in Long Term care and assisted living facilities will also die, but according to some, this is an acceptable loss, because we need our freedoms.

If President Trump and his crazed gun lovin’ n totin’  demonstrators get their way, there will soon be campaign rallies again.  After all, it is his favorite thing to do…sucking up as much attention and adoration as he can.  Pack em’ in he says, and get them all riled up.  I am curious about that first rally.  Will there be social distancing?  Will they wear masks?  Will they screen people who are entering to see if they are sick?  Will they get sick after the rally because of exposure to COVID 19?  We know that ministers who bucked the advice of doing remote services, and insisted on in person salvation, caused COVID 19 outbreaks.  Will President Trumps rallies cause outbreaks and death of his supporters?

This is how I see it.  Vulnerable high risk individuals are put between a rock and a hard place. Workers from factories with known COVID 19 outbreaks,  illness and death..are being forced back to work. Inevitably some of them will die but Americans can’t do without their meat!  Old people like me will have to stay inside indefinitely to avoid infection.  Businesses small and large will be opening in the MIDST of this pandemic and the hardest hitting time of it, because being closed infringes on their “freedoms”.   A spike in COVID 19 cases is inevitable if we do not  “Open America” very carefully. I offer this warning to the demonstrators.   I’d bet, with confidence, that victims of this extremely horrifying infection beg for death at the end, and death is the ultimate “freedom”.  Is that what you want?  If so, they you can be the test cases for all of us.  I will stay safe by socially distancing for as long as it takes.

I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I do know this.  We have amazing experts on infectious diseases in this country and the world,  who are making solid scientific recommendations to our President and to our country, that are being totally ignored.  Ignoring science is stupid.  People who don’t care about other people’s lives are ignoring pandemic science.   Yes, reopen, and do it soon. But do it gradually and cautiously by following the advice and steps of experts.  Don’t listen to the President because he ignores warnings and science, and he makes up his own narrative. Our lives do not mean a damn to him. Money and winning elections do!  And please, stop the asinine demonstrations.  Who the hell are they demonstrating against…a virus? dying people? caregivers?   That is just insanity.  You can’t stop a virus by shooting them with an AR 15.  Our State leaders, or at least most of them, are working extremely hard against some steep odds and with limited resources,  to do the best they can. Their priority is public health and the lives of their  residents.

As much as we may hate it, we are all in this together.  What we do as individuals can determine whether or not our neighbor lives or dies.  What we do as a society can determine whether or not whole sectors of our population live or die.    Give that some thought, settle down and do this right.