Inn owner: Staff ‘worked hard to follow all of the rules’
MILLINOCKET, Maine (AP) — The owner of an inn that hosted a wedding reception that led to an outbreak of more than 100 coronavirus cases said Friday the staff “worked hard to follow all of the rules” put into place during the pandemic.
Laura Cormier, owner of the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, issued her first public comment as the number of infections tied to the Aug. 7 wedding and reception grew to 123 on Friday. The figure includes 54 cases at the York County Jail and nine at a rehabilitation center in Madison. One person died.
“Our hearts go out to the family, those affected by the virus who were at the wedding, and those who have been impacted since then. There is no doubt that this virus is dangerous with wide-ranging impacts,” Cormier said in a statement. “We too are deeply saddened and frustrated by the many devastating impacts of COVID-19. This is a challenging time for all of us.”
A state health inspector’s report indicates the staff at the Big Moose Inn wore masks and signs told guests to wear them, too. But most guests did not wear masks or socially distance themselves, and the number of people exceeded the 50-person cap for indoor events, the report said.
There were 62 wedding guests, but the total number grew to 109 when others not affiliated with the wedding were included, the report said.
Cormier said the inn’s mistake was in thinking it could accept a group larger than 50 as long as they were in separate rooms.
“We have taken the pandemic seriously, followed the rules as we have understood them, and gone above and beyond those rules to try and keep our guests, staff, and community safe,” she said.
The state suspended the eating and lodging license after a followup visit found the inn continued to be out of compliance on safety rules. The license was restored Friday after violations were corrected.
“While we cannot be sure the virus was fully spread at our facility, we know that there are things that we can be doing better. We have given the Maine CDC our word, and we are giving our community and guests that same word that we will do — and are doing — better,” she said.
Two of workers at the Big Moose Inn tested positive for the coronavirus, but it has been determined that they contracted it “from an outside source,” she said. None of the servers at the event have tested positive, she said.
In other pandemic-related news in Maine:
A Maine Principals’ Association committee has given its approval for fall sports for high schools, but that’s not the final word.
The Maine Department of Education and other state agencies will review guidelines adopted by the MPA to ensure they comply with all of the state’s COVID-19 safety guidelines.
The MPA’s Sports Medicine Committee put together sport-by-sport guidelines, and those were approved on Thursday.
MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham said he’s aware that the state could ask for changes to the guidelines or even eliminate specific sports from being played altogether.
The review is aimed at keeping people safe, Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said.
SCHOOLS & NUMBERS
The state on Friday maintained a green light ranking for schools, meaning the risk of coronavirus is low and schools can reopen with in-person classes.
But the Maine Department of Education said it’s monitoring outbreaks in Penobscot and York counties that could lead to a change in status. There will be an update on Friday, Sept. 4.
The state reported 22 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the total number of people who’ve tested positive to 4,436, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported. The number of deaths remains unchanged at 132.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.