At least 42 cases stem from the Brooks Pentecostal Church that hosted indoor services with 70 to 100 attendees, CBS News reports. The church also had a multiday “fellowship gathering” with other churches in the area, which brought in at least 150 people.
The Maine CDC has launched an investigation into the outbreak, both at the church and the school that sits on the same property, Lighthouse Christian Academy. While the outbreak saw 17 confirmed cases on Saturday, it has since grown to 42 on Tuesday. The outbreak spread to the Lighthouse Christian Academy, with seven of the 42 cases coming from the school. The school has a student body of 27, from kindergarten to high school. There have also been cases linked to a nearby long-term care facility and four neighboring schools, though none of these places are experiencing an outbreak.
Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said that the outbreak was “quickly evolving” during a press conference on Tuesday. He added that he anticipates the number of cases to grow in the days ahead, “perhaps significantly.” He said that sick patients range in age from two to 80 years old.
The church held the “fellowship gathering” between Oct. 2 to Oct. 4, which roughly 100 to 150 people attended. Individuals from nearby churches also participated in the event.
The Brooks church also held separate services, which brought 70 to 100 people indoors. The church’s Facebook live stream of the event showed that churchgoers disregarded social distancing and did not wear face coverings.
Church officials told Maine CDC that “masks were available, but not routinely used” during regular services and the larger event. The church has temporarily stopped services following a request from the Maine CDC.
“As the pastor of the Brooks Pentecostal Church, I would like to express sadness over the resulting sickness that has been spread by the virus,” Pastor M.W. Shaw said in a statement on Tuesday. “Though the origin of the virus is unclear, we will be addressing all recommendations and guidelines provided to us by the CDC. Our church will be addressing our continuity of worship in a safe and orderly manner.”
He added, “We are comforted at this time that there have been no hospitalizations and, more importantly, no deaths.”