Health officials in Maine are investigating a COVID-19 outbreak linked to a church in the town of Brooks, Waldo County.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (MCDC) said Sunday that at least 17 confirmed cases have been linked to the Brooks Pentecostal Church, with the agency now in the process of tracing the contacts of those who have been infected.
The MCDC said that individuals who have spent time at the church or its affiliated school, the Lighthouse Christian Academy, since October 2 should monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms.
In addition, people who attended a “fellowship rally” that was held between October 2 and 4 may have been exposed to the virus, with the agency urging them to take necessary precautions.
It is currently not clear exactly how the virus spread at the church. A livestream posted to Facebook of a service on October 4 showed several attendees sitting close to each other without wearing face masks.
CBS 13 reported that the church was closed on Sunday, with a sign on the locked door reading: “Due to precautions, we will not be holding Sunday services or Wednesday evening prayer this week.”
The latest outbreak is the second that has been linked to a church in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.
A wedding held in August was linked to more than 176 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths, including secondary outbreaks at the York County Jail and a rehabilitation center in the town of Madison.
The wedding ceremony was held at Tri Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket, while the reception took place at the Big Moose Inn Cabins and Campground in Millinocket, The Associated Press reported.
The number of people who attended the wedding exceeded the state’s guidelines of a maximum of 50 at indoor gatherings.
Scientists believe that superspreader events—where one person infects many people in rapid succession—have played an outsized role in that the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.
Studies suggest that between 10 and 20 percent of infected people are responsible for around 80 percent of virus transmission.
On Sunday, the MCDC confirmed 29 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to over 5,900. Since the start of the pandemic, 146 people from the state have died from the disease.
The state currently has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country with 16 cases per 100,000 people
The church outbreak in the town of Brooks has forced the closure of businesses in and the cancelation of Halloween events.