BELFAST, Maine — Nearly half of the 60 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far in connection with the Brooks Pentecostal Church outbreak did not attend the fellowship rally or church services where the infection is believed to have originated, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Instead, 26 were infected from secondary contact with those who were at the church, meaning they came into direct, close, sustained contact with a primary case, Dr. Nirav Shah, head of the Maine CDC, said Tuesday.
The stat shows how quickly the virus can spread among members of a close-knit community.
It’s possible that the Waldo County outbreak is beginning to plateau, with just six new cases reported here since Saturday. Isolated cases reported at a handful of Waldo County schools and from an employee at a residential care facility in Searsport have not led to additional outbreaks.
But it’s too soon to say that the Brooks outbreak is contained, Shah said.
“Although we are encouraged that the numbers of cases associated with that outbreak has not risen steadily, we’re not out of it yet,” he said.
People connected with an outbreak can seed another one somewhere else, according to Maine CDC.
“We strongly continue to encourage folks who are in the [Waldo County] area, if you’re experiencing symptoms that could be COVID-19 — cough, fever, shortness of breath, rapid loss of taste or smell, please get tested,” Shah said.
Testing in the midcoast is available at Waldo County General Hospital and Seaport Community Health Center, both in Belfast, and Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport.
However, Shah said that Maine’s COVID-19 overall numbers are trending in the wrong direction. While the positivity rate remains low compared to the rest of the country, it has gone up in the past two weeks, from .45 percent to .66 percent. There have been 174 new cases of the virus in Maine in just three days.
“Unfortunately, we expect that the number of new cases per day will continue at this rate and likely move even higher in the coming days,” he said. “More transmission of COVID-19 is happening in Maine. The spike that we’ve foreshadowed is happening. This is deeply concerning. The bottom line is that we are in it now. These numbers should hopefully put to rest any notion that it can’t happen here … it can happen here, because it is happening here.”
Shah urged Mainers to continue to wear face masks and keep a distance from each other, acknowledging that after eight months of coping with the pandemic, people are growing tired.
“What’s concerning is that the cases that we’ve seen recently are not being driven by large outbreaks” but by community, even household level transmission, in virtually every corner of the state,” he said. “Almost every day, we see new cases in almost every county.”
Shah said he knows the coming weeks will be hard ones.
“But as daunting as that challenge before us is, we can do it,” he said. “Maine has risen to challenges repeatedly since March of 1820.”