After wedding outbreak, Millinocket area has gone over a month without a new virus case



While an early August wedding in the Millinocket area sparked Maine’s largest outbreak of the coronavirus, that part of the state has now gone more than a month without recording any new cases.

State and local officials think the quick decisions by people in Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway to close down businesses and organizations in the immediate wake of that outbreak, and to step up mask wearing, probably helped to bring it under control.

Town offices and businesses were closed after the outbreak. Local schools delayed their opening by two weeks. The Millinocket hospital postponed a number of nonessential services.

Those three towns still have recorded some of the highest infection rates in the state since the start of the pandemic: East Millinocket, which saw 20 cases among residents after the wedding, still has the state’s fourth highest per-capita case rate, for example. But the last time either of the three towns recorded a new case among a resident was late August, according to Millinocket Fire Chief Tom Malcolm, who is also the town’s health officer.

Malcolm was encouraged that the community has reached that goal even after schools and some businesses have reopened. In East Millinocket — where a number of school employees, including the superintendent, tested positive after the wedding — younger students returned to in-person instruction just this week after beginning the year fully online, and high school students will return in person on Monday.

Malcolm was also pleased that members of the community seem to be taking more seriously the advice to wear face masks and use social distancing while out in public since the Aug. 7 wedding set in motion a sprawling, statewide outbreak that has infected at least 180 people with COVID-19 and led to eight deaths.

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