Coronavirus US: Cases linked to Maine wedding rises to 134

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Pastor Todd Bell, who runs his own church 225 miles away in Sanford, officiated the August 7 wedding in Millinocket that has now been linked to 134 of the state's COVID-19 cases

Pastor Todd Bell, who runs his own church 225 miles away in Sanford, officiated the August 7 wedding in Millinocket that has now been linked to 134 of the state’s COVID-19 cases

The number of coronavirus cases linked to a Maine wedding has now risen to 134 as it’s revealed that the pastor who officiated the nuptials held a Sunday service after health officials said they were investigating an outbreak at his own church. 

Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said there has now been 123 confirmed and 11 probable cases in the state that have been linked to the August 7 wedding in Millinocket. 

Theresa Dentremont, a 83-year-old woman who did not attend the wedding, has since died after health officials say she contracted COVID-19 from a guest. 

Pastor Todd Bell, who runs his own church 225 miles away in Sanford, officiated the wedding and has since said that six families from his church also attended the nuptials.

Bell’s Calvary Baptist Church went ahead and held indoor services on Sunday – just one day after CDC officials revealed they were investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 at his place of worship. 

There were at least five confirmed cases linked to Bell’s church as of Saturday, health officials said. 

The officials have not confirmed if they consider the cases to be linked to the wedding. They did confirm, without releasing Bell’s name, that Calvary Baptist’s pastor had officiated the wedding.   

They warned that people who attended services at the church between August 9 – two days after the wedding – through August 23 could have been potentially exposed. 

Footage from a livestream of the service showed Bell giving a defiant sermon and, at one point, a 15-person choir standing next to each other on stage to sing, according to the Boston Globe. None of those on stage wore masks. 

Bell's Calvary Baptist Church went ahead and held indoor services on Sunday - just one day after CDC officials revealed they were investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 at his place of worship. Footage from a livestream of a service showed Bell giving a sermon

Bell’s Calvary Baptist Church went ahead and held indoor services on Sunday – just one day after CDC officials revealed they were investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 at his place of worship. Footage from a livestream of a service showed Bell giving a sermon

According to social media posts, Bell - who is a pilot - flew from Sanford to Millinocket the day before he was due to officiate the wedding

According to social media posts, Bell – who is a pilot – flew from Sanford to Millinocket the day before he was due to officiate the wedding

Addressing the outbreak at his own church (pictured above), Bell said they had told those who were sick to avoid coming to services and to quarantine at home

Addressing the outbreak at his own church (pictured above), Bell said they had told those who were sick to avoid coming to services and to quarantine at home

During his sermon, Bell addressed the coronavirus outbreak linked to the wedding. 

‘I officiated the wedding. It was a beautiful wedding,’ Bell told the congregation. 

‘Six families from our church went there. We never expected to get COVID. Nobody expected to experience the things that happened because you went to a beautiful wedding like that.’ 

He said he had been on the receiving end of negative social media comments for officiating the wedding before quoting a Bible verse that reads: ‘Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.’  

‘Men have reviled me,’ he said during his sermon.  

Bell addressed one comment about him flying his plane to another part of the state after the person commented that he was likely going to spread COVID-19 at a casino there.  

‘Be a good place to spread it,’ Bell said. ‘Gambling has killed more people and ruined more homes and destroyed more things in our society almost than liquor or pot or pornography… Gambling is wicked.’

Addressing the outbreak at his own church, Bell said they had told those who were sick to avoid coming to services and to quarantine at home. 

At one point, Bell told his congregation that he was putting his faith in God instead of a vaccine.

He also said that any vaccine would contain ‘aborted baby tissue’.

Theresa Dentremont, 83, died in Maine's Millinocket Regional Hospital on August 21 after becoming infected with coronavirus. Her 97-year-old husband Frank Dentremont was hospitalized at the same facility a few days later with COVID-19 but has since recovered

Theresa Dentremont, 83, died in Maine’s Millinocket Regional Hospital on August 21 after becoming infected with coronavirus. Her 97-year-old husband Frank Dentremont was hospitalized at the same facility a few days later with COVID-19 but has since recovered

The couple had been self-isolating at their home for much of the pandemic given they fell into the high-risk COVID-19 category

The couple had been self-isolating at their home for much of the pandemic given they fell into the high-risk COVID-19 category

The wedding that Bell officiated, which was held on August 7, has made national headlines ever since health officials first revealed guests had started testing positive for COVID-19 just days later. 

The ceremony was held at the Tri Town Baptist Church before an indoor reception took place at the Big Moose Inn.     

According to social media posts, Bell – who is a pilot – flew from Sanford to Millinocket the day before he was due to officiate the wedding. 

The bride and groom have not been publicly identified. 

The reception venue has since admitted that they misunderstood local capacity rules for COVID-19 restrictions and overbooked the event. 

Sixty-five guests attended the wedding despite the state having a 50-person limit for indoor gatherings, health officials say.

Cases believed to be tied to the wedding have since been detected in two nearby towns, the East Millinocket school system, a nursing home and a county jail 200 miles away after a jail employee attended the nuptials. 

As of Wednesday, Maine had reported 4,548 cases and 132 deaths from COVID-19. 

The ceremony was held at the Tri Town Baptist Church before an indoor reception took place at the Big Moose Inn. Sixty-five guests attended the wedding despite the state having a 50-person limit for indoor gatherings, health officials say

The ceremony was held at the Tri Town Baptist Church before an indoor reception took place at the Big Moose Inn. Sixty-five guests attended the wedding despite the state having a 50-person limit for indoor gatherings, health officials say

As of Wednesday, Maine had reported 4,548 cases and 132 deaths from COVID-19

As of Wednesday, Maine had reported 4,548 cases and 132 deaths from COVID-19 

Among those deaths was 83-year-old Theresa Dentremont who died in Maine’s Millinocket Regional Hospital on August 21 after becoming infected with the virus.  

While she did not attend the wedding, the hospital believes she may have been infected by one of the guests. 

Her 97-year-old husband Frank Dentremont, who is a WWII veteran and the oldest resident of resident of East Millinocket, was hospitalized at the same facility a few days later with COVID-19. 

His son, Frank Dentremont Jr, revealed in a Facebook post that his father had since miraculously recovered and was due to be discharged from the hospital on Wednesday. 

Dentremont Jr told the Washington Post that he recalled hearing about the wedding, which has now been linked to 123 of the state’s coronavirus cases, but believed his father and stepmother would have been safe. 

The couple had been self-isolating at their home for much of the pandemic given they fell into the high-risk COVID-19 category. 

‘I had heard the stories about the wedding thing,’ he said. 

‘I thought, ‘My dad and stepmom weren’t there. They’ve been quarantining themselves; they’ll be fine’. Who could have known?’ 

Dentremont Jr has said he doesn’t want to speculate on who could have given his stepmother and father the virus. 

He has also said he isn’t angry at those who went ahead with the wedding. 

‘Nobody did this consciously,’ Dentremont Jr said. ‘If they knew they were the ones at fault, I’m sure they’d feel terrible.’ 

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