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Local officials in Castine are urging residents to follow recommended precautions, and a local church has canceled in-person services this coming Sunday, after learning that out-of-state visitors may have been infected with COVID-19 when they were in town this month.

Despite the concerns, officials said they have been looking into the matter but have not found any evidence that the disease spread to local residents before the visitors left. The visitors did not test positive for the disease until after they left Maine, officials said.

“At this point, we have no COVID cases in Castine,” Ingrid Scott, the town’s health officer, said Monday. “None.”

In a memorandum posted last week on the town’s website, Castine’s town manager sought to allay some of the fears about a potential local outbreak.

Shawn Blodgett wrote that “it appears likely that the local area recently hosted visitors who are COVID-19 positive and that some Castine residents may have come into contact with them.”

He added that the reports should be viewed “as a wake-up call” and that local residents should take precautions to help prevent the spread of the disease, regardless of whether there may be confirmed cases in or around Castine.

“It would be foolhardy to believe that this event was the first time that this virus has been in our community and perhaps even more foolhardy to think that this will be the last time that it will happen,” Blodgett wrote.

Only 12 cases have been confirmed among Hancock County residents, and none of them are from Castine or adjacent towns, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. There were only four active cases in the entire county as of Monday, according to the Maine CDC.

Nonetheless, in-person worship services scheduled for July 5 at the Trinitarian Congregational church on Main Street have been canceled because of the potential exposure, church officials said. In the meantime, podcast services will be available through the church’s website.

According to a report in the Castine Patriot weekly newspaper, the visitors were people from New Orleans who stayed on Nautilus Island, a privately owned island at the mouth of the local harbor that is part of the neighboring town of Brooksville. In addition to people staying on the island, a man who ferried the guests on a boat between the island and Castine also has tested positive, according to the report.

Nirav Shah, director of Maine CDC, did not release details about where the people stayed or where they were from, but said Monday that his office has been in contact with Castine officials and with health officials out of state about the situation. He said eight people total connected with the group had tested positive for COVID-19 — seven visitors and a man “who spends time in Castine” but who resides out of state.

“We’ve already worked with that individual, to see if they had any other exposure to anybody in the Castine area,” Shah said.

Scott likewise did not comment on where the visitors were from or where they stayed, but said some members of the group visited a Castine takeout food business while in the area.

Local residents and workers who follow recommended precautions — staying at least six feet away from other people, cleaning hands and high-use surfaces, wearing masks indoors, self-quarantining if they feel sick — reduce their risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, she said.

“As long as they continue to do the things they are supposed to do, there shouldn’t be a problem,” she said.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....