A woman wears a mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus while looking at drying racks outside a hardware store, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in the York County city of Sanford, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

State health officials have linked six more cases of COVID-19 to a recent funeral and reception in Sanford and said that funeral attendees visited several other social clubs in the York County city, potentially exposing others to the virus.

It’s the latest sign of the coronavirus’ increasing spread in York County, which has emerged as Maine’s hotspot for the virus following an early August wedding in the Katahdin region whose ripple effects have been felt mostly in York County.

The Maine CDC said earlier this week that it was investigating an outbreak stemming from an Aug. 31 outdoor funeral and subsequent reception that took place both indoors and outdoors at the American Legion T.W. Cole Post 19. The total number of cases tied to that outbreak now stands at 10, up from four earlier this week.

On Saturday, the CDC said attendees at the funeral and reception who tested positive for the virus also visited a half dozen private social clubs in the city, potentially exposing others to the virus.

The Maine CDC has already opened outbreak investigations into three social clubs in Sanford aside from the American Legion post where the funeral reception occurred. Those social clubs are the Sanford Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9935, the Lafayette Social Club and the Amvets Sanford Post 3.

Additionally, the Maine CDC is asking anyone who attended the Springvale Social Club, the Wolves Club and the Sanford Elks Lodge to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.

Home to 15 percent of Maine’s population, York County has accounted for more than 40 percent of the state’s new virus cases since mid-August. The county has been responsible for more than half of the state’s new cases for most of the past week.

The growth in York County’s virus cases stems from the Aug. 7 wedding in the Millinocket area, as a guest of the wedding who is an employee of the York County Jail is thought to have spread the virus to the Alfred jail, which is now the site of Maine’s largest correctional facility outbreak to date.

In addition, the Sanford church led by the pastor who officiated the Aug. 7 wedding is also the site of an outbreak of 10 cases. The pastor, Todd Bell, has continued to hold in-person, maskless services at Calvary Baptist Church since the outbreak was announced. The state is considering whether to sanction the church as Bell keeps encouraging churchgoers to not wear masks.

Sanford is the site of at least one other virus outbreak at the city’s fire department. The city council this week passed an emergency ordinance requiring mask-wearing in public places, after the mayor sent out a stern letter asking residents to take the virus seriously.

As of Sept. 6, Sanford, with 57 coronavirus cases, had the state’s 39th highest infection rate since the start of the pandemic, according to the Maine CDC’s municipal case data. Two weeks earlier, when it had recorded 37 cases, it ranked 56th.