Report tracks COVID-19 outbreak from wedding reception

FILE (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
FILE (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A wedding reception in rural Maine attended by 55 guests was epidemiologically linked to 177 COVID-19 cases between Aug. 7 and Sept. 14, including seven hospitalizations and seven deaths, according to a new report issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Secondary and subsequent contacts following the wedding reception, researchers believe, led to infections at a long-term care facility about 100 miles away and a correctional facility about 200 miles away. Six of the deaths associated with the event involved residents at the long-term care facility.

With 55 guests, the reception exceeded Maine’s 50-person limit for an indoor gathering in a shared space. The wedding venue had posted signs instructing visitors to wear masks, but, according to the report, “guests did not comply with this requirement” or social distancing recommendations.

Ultimately, 30 of the 55 guests tested positive for COVID-19.

The venue did not have information about the wedding guests, so Maine health officials linked cases to the event by backward tracing, in which people with confirmed or probable COVID-19 were interviewed to determine whether they attended the wedding reception or were in close contact with someone who had tested positive. Health investigators determined that a staff member at the long-term care facility, which had an outbreak of 38 cases, had been in close contact with their child who had attended the wedding reception. Additionally, a staff member at a correctional facility where there were 82 cases also attended the wedding. The report noted that the long-term care worker and the correctional worker showed signs of COVID-19 but reported to work anyway. Another 27 cases were found in the community at large, where one person died.

The CDC report had limitations. Because the wedding venue didn’t keep a list of names, the number of guests who were infected could be underreported. Also, the report said, the long-term care facility and correctional facility staff members possibly had exposures outside the facilities, and a definite linkage of outbreaks was not possible without -genome sequencing.