Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Family of defiant pastor who officiated 'super spreader' Maine wedding linked to at least 180 COVID-19 cases and eight deaths will hold 50-person INDOOR wedding for his son next month

 The family of a Maine pastor who officiated a 'super spreader' wedding linked to at least eight coronavirus deaths and nearly 200 cases in the state, will come together for an indoor ceremony and celebration next month.  

Pastor Todd Bell, of the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, officiated the August 7 wedding in Millinocket that has been linked to more than 180 infections, including in an outbreak at a nursing home in Madison, more than 100 miles away, and a county jail. 

Despite the deadly outbreak, the family is set to gather once more on October 17 to watch Bell's son tie the knot at an indoor service at South Church in Portsmouth, the Bangor Daily News reported. 

Church spokesperson Jennifer Leyden said the ceremony will be conducted by a 'family minister', although it is not clear if it will be Bell.

About 50 guests are expected to attend the wedding, where they will be required to wear masks, Leyden told the paper.

About 50 of Bell's friends and relatives will gather at South Church (pictured) in Portsmouth, Maine to watch his son tie the knot in an indoor ceremony on October 17

About 50 of Bell's friends and relatives will gather at South Church (pictured) in Portsmouth, Maine to watch his son tie the knot in an indoor ceremony on October 17 

Church spokesperson Jennifer Leyden said the ceremony will be conducted by a 'family minister', although it is not clear if it will be Bell

Church spokesperson Jennifer Leyden said the ceremony will be conducted by a 'family minister', although it is not clear if it will be Bell

The family will then celebrate the nuptials at a reception at the Hall at Great Falls, a venue in Somersworth

The family will then celebrate the nuptials at a reception at the Hall at Great Falls, a venue in Somersworth

The ceremony will be followed by a reception at the Hall at Great Falls, a venue in Somersworth, 15 miles away from Sanford.

However, according to the venue's website, 'no events are being scheduled' at the hall due to the pandemic. 

The event comes as York County becomes the state's latest hotspot for COVID-19 cases. 

The county, which has a population of more than 207,000, has recorded 1,118 infections and 16 deaths as of Tuesday, according to the health department data. 

 

Bell however, has remained defiant and has continued to ignore social distancing and mask regulations, believing that 'God not the government' will handle the health crisis, according to the news outlet. 

Last week, an eighth death was linked to a coronavirus outbreak stemming from the August 7 wedding. 

The man who died was in his 80s and from Somerset County, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday. 

According to the venue's website, 'no events are being scheduled' at the hall due to the pandemic

According to the venue's website, 'no events are being scheduled' at the hall due to the pandemic

The Maine CDC last week said that the number of deaths related to an outbreak at the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison is now seven. 

None of the eight people who died at the nursing home attended the wedding or reception itself. 

The ceremony took place indoors at the Tri Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket, and the reception was held at the Big Moose Inn Cabins and Campground in Millinocket.


In total about 65 people attended the event – which violated Gov. Janet Mills' executive order limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people.

One of the wedding attendees was an employee at the York County Jail, where 72 cases have emerged and been linked to the wedding, officials say. 

As of last week the nursing home also had 39 active COVID-19 cases linked to the wedding - at least 24 residents and 15 workers.

Officials say that an employee of the facility lives in the same household as a person who attended the wedding.

The only death to take place outside the nursing home was 88-year-old Theresa Dentremont who died at Millinocket Regional Hospital on August 21 after contracting the virus.

Detremont did not attend the wedding, but hospital staff believed she may have been infected by someone who did. 

Theresa Detremont (pictured) did not attend the Millinocket wedding before she was infected

Theresa Detremont (pictured) did not attend the Millinocket wedding before she was infected

Now the state is investigating whether an outbreak at Calvary Baptist Church is linked to the wedding.

That church is tied to at least 10 cases.

The church said that some of its members attended the wedding reception. 

Despite the outbreak, the church said it will continue to hold services and is taking precautions to limit the spread of the virus. 

'The Calvary Baptist Church has a legal right to meet. The authority of a local Christian church, a Jewish synagogue, or a Muslim mosque to gather for their respective religious services is a time-honored part of our nation´s history since its inception,' a statement said. 

'These religious activities are also fully protected under the First Amendment to our United States Constitution,' the statement added. 

Pastor Bell is a big critic of the government's attempt to control the virus. 

Videos show that he held services at the church without social distancing.  


 He hired a lawyer known nationally for defending the religious rights of churches. 

The virus cases stemming from the wedding have spanned hundreds of miles in a state that had largely controlled the spread of the coronavirus through the summer.  

'Maine CDC is concerned about where we are, and I'm asking everyone else to share in that concern. COVID-19, right now, is not on the other side of the fence. It is in our yards,' said Nirav Shah, head of the Maine CDC. 

'The gains that Maine has made against COVID-19 are ones that could, and unfortunately can, be washed away.'

Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long said the agency's investigations suggest 'multiple potential points of transmission related to the August 7 wedding and reception.'

The agency is working to limit the spread of the virus and support people affected by it, he said.

Shah said the state's percent positivity rate has ticked up to 0.63 percent for the previous seven days. 

At one point, the rate was less than half a percentage point. The rate remains well below the national average of about 5 per cent, Shah said.  

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