CALAIS — A COVID-19 outbreak at a Washington County house of worship is the third church-related outbreak so far in the state.
“Even before we knew of any cases at the church, we had heard about one case that was one step removed from us. We shut down immediately,” said Pastor Matthew Burden, leader of the Second Baptist Church in Calais.
Second Baptist closed its doors on Oct. 11. Although the pastor said the congregation had been following Gov. Janet Mills’ COVID-19 guidelines, more than two dozen people connected to the church have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The outbreak was announced on Monday with four cases.
“That number has now increased to 27 cases,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, said Wednesday. “Some of what has happened is that other existing cases in and around Washington County have now been associated with the outbreak.”
Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said the Calais outbreak number did not change on Thursday.
The Second Baptist pastor and one of his sons are two of the confirmed cases.
“So I came down with a case. It was very mild,” Burden said via Zoom. “I actually would not have thought a second time about it until other cases starting popping up. So thankfully, my symptoms are mild. One of my sons also tested positive and his symptoms have been mild.”
One parishioner is in the hospital.
“He had a lot of underlying conditions,” Burden said. “I spoke to him yesterday and we are hopeful that he is improving.”
Another outbreak is happening at the Brooks Pentecostal Church and their Lighthouse Christian Academy, where 60 people are infected. A nine-person outbreak at the Calvary Baptist in Sanford linked to a “superspreading” August wedding in the Katahdin Region that killed seven, is now listed as over.
“We’re trying to play catch-up,” the Calais pastor said. “This thing is moving faster than we expected.”
The pastor for the Brooks church posted an apology on their Facebook page for hosting a fellowship earlier this month with around 150 people in attendance.
“To all the folks out there who are maybe worried about their own symptoms or anything like that or to other churches for which something like this might happen, I would encourage them to do the right thing,” Burden said.