BROOKS — A church gathering designed to bring fellowship, instead brought people together to spread the coronavirus.
“The outbreak appears to have begun at a fellowship gathering convened by the Brooks Pentecostal Church in Brooks, Maine from roughly October 2nd to October 4th,” said Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah.
He added, “There are 42 cases at present and the cases range in age from 2 years old all the way up to 80 years old.”
The outbreak was announced Saturday and word quickly spread.
“I believe people are more aware of the actual, you know, the virus and the precautions that are needed to be taken in order to prevent the spread,” said Michael Switzer, a Brooks selectman and owner of Ralph’s Cafe, the only restaurant in the community.
The co-op in town put up a sign saying “effective immediately masks are required” and a thrift store in town temporarily closed in response to the outbreak.
The Brooks church is also home to the kindergarten through grade 12 Lighthouse Christian Academy, a school with 27 students.
“Seven of the 42 cases are linked to the Christian academy,” Shah said.
He added, “There are four other schools across two RSUs that have cases that appear to be linked to this outbreak … the Ames Elementary School in Searsmont, the Captain Albert Steven school in Belfast, the Troy Howard Middle School, also in Belfast, and Mount View Elementary in Thorndike.”
Up to 150 people from all over the region attended the fellowship, Shah said.
“Individuals from other churches attended this gathering, including the Charleston Church, the Quaker Hill Church as well as members of the Faith Bible College in Charleston,” he said.
Shah said one employee from Bay View Manor in Searsport is linked to the Brooks outbreak and universal testing of all residents and staff at the facility is underway.
A sign on the entrance of the Brooks church says services are temporarily suspended as a precaution.
“I’m hoping for the best for everybody that it touches, even the people that may not get sick, but know people that are sick and you know, what you have to then do because of that,” Switzer said.
He added, “I hope no one gets severely ill that they’re in the hospital for a long time. I hope everyone has just a mild case.”