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Coronavirus cases rise to 49 in conjunction with Brooks church

People from Quaker Hill Christian Church in Unity attended fellowship rally
By Portland Press Herald Staff Writers and Journal Staff | Oct 19, 2020
Photo by: Carolyn Zachary Sign on the door of Brooks Pentecostal Church announces Sunday services Oct. 18 and evening prayer this week are canceled after 17 cases of COVID-19 were reported Saturday.

Brooks — Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 37 net new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, Oct. 22, three of them linked to an outbreak connected with Brooks Pentecostal Church.

Waldo County's active cases increased by one, reaching 49, the CDC reported Oct. 22. Six additional cases were reported Wednesday and five additional recoveries.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Oct. 21 that the coronavirus outbreak the CDC identified with Brooks Pentecostal Church then included at least 46 people, including seven associated with the church's Lighthouse Christian School, as well as people associated with public schools and a residential care facility in the county. Three people have been hospitalized.

The CDC determined the outbreak started at a fellowship rally attended by approximately 100 to 150 people from across Maine between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4. The church also held indoor services with a congregation of 70 to 100 people.

Shah said the church had notified his office and said they discovered while investigating that masks were available, but not routinely used. He added that he expects the numbers associated with the Brooks Pentecostal Church outbreak to increase, and added “perhaps significantly.”

Contact tracing is underway in conjunction with the Brooks outbreak, and Maine CDC has asked potential contacts of infected people to cooperate.

As of Wednesday, in Waldo County there have been 132 cases overall, 70 recoveries and 14 deaths since mid-March.

Cases in several Waldo County schools, Shah said Wednesday, including Ames Elementary in Searsmont, Capt. Albert Stevens School and Troy Howard Middle School, both in Belfast, and Mount View Elementary School in Thorndike, are all associated with the church outbreak.

Shah stressed that the cases showing up in Waldo County schools are not outbreaks, but rather linked or associated with the Brooks church outbreak. "We have not detected transmission of COVID-19 in these public schools," Shah said.

Bayview Manor residential care facility in Searsport, Shah said, is also linked to the Brooks church outbreak.

"Please take the symptoms seriously," he said. "Wear a face covering, avoid large gatherings, and stay home if you feel sick."

He encouraged anyone who has symptoms to call and get tested at one of the two swab-and-send sites in the area, at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport and Seaport Community Health Center in Belfast.

The church's pastor, Matthew Shaw, works at Waldo County General Hospital, Shah said, and the CDC is working with the hospital to find out who may have been exposed. "I can't characterize the extent" of the list, Shah said.

“Close contacts can help limit potential spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 by answering calls, providing complete information, and quarantining when advised to do so,” the agency said in a news release Saturday.

The CDC is advising anyone who spent time at the church or its affiliated Lighthouse Christian Academy School since Oct. 2 to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, which include cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue and body aches, among others.

Anyone who attended the congregation's Oct. 2-4 fellowship rally could have been exposed to the virus and should take precautions, the CDC said. Shah said Tuesday that those fellowship gatherings, which involved members of other churches, violated executive orders, including directives to limit indoor crowds to less than 50, wear masks in indoor public places and practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart.

Those attending the Oct. 2-4 events included people from Quaker Hill Christian Church in Unity and the Charleston Church and Faith Bible College in Charleston.

The Brooks church’s website and social media pages did not display information about the outbreak on Sunday morning. Videos of services posted to Facebook indicate that the church has been conducting in-person worship since at least September, when one video showed congregants gathering close together in the pews, without masks.

A post added to the church's Facebook page Sunday morning beneath video of the Oct. 4 service said: "Glad you liked it, these God fearing but not Covid fearing folks brought Covid to our community. Is that really being pure or a sanctuary? Wake up!"

The video appears to show a similar close, maskless gathering.

A post added to the page at noon Tuesday stated that the church is working with the CDC "to monitor cases associated with the church community and prevent transmission." The post advises church members, students and families to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and to follow CDC health and safety guidelines, which it lists in detail.

Beneath the post, there is a message from Pastor Shaw expressing "sadness over the resulting sickness that has been spread by the virus." He goes on to say the church "has been following quarantine measures since before any positive tests were reported. ... Though the origin of the virus is unclear, we will be addressing all recommendations and guidelines provided to us by the CDC. ..."

He concludes by saying, "We understand the fear and frustration some have felt. We are comforted at this time that there have been no hospitalizations, and, more importantly, no deaths. May God bless the community of Brooks, ME."

The Republican Journal's Brooks correspondent, Melissa McDonald, reported Saturday that town officials are reassessing plans for Halloween. A fundraising tea for the Brooks Historical Society, scheduled for Oct. 25, has been canceled, and the local Thrift Shop is closed until further notice.

Several attempts to reach Shaw were unsuccessful as of press time.

Capt. Keith L. Nealley of Brooks Ambulance service said Shaw is no longer associated with the agency and has not been a member for over two years.

Brooks Selectman Linda Lord said the situation was “terribly scary,” and added that she hoped those who have contracted the virus “all get well.”

The town’s Halloween celebration is canceled because of concerns over the outbreak, she noted. “This certainly has made most people more cautious,” she said. “A lot of us have had a COVID test” just to be on the safe side.

Where to get tested

Individuals who think they need a COVID-19 test, with or without symptoms, can get one under the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Standing Order. A list of test sites is available on the Keep Maine Healthy website. The list includes DHHS-sponsored swab and send sites that offer testing at no charge.

In Waldo County, testing is available by appointment at Seaport Community Health Center, 53 Schoodic Drive (in the athenahealth complex), 338-6900.

The facility is a walk-up clinic, but an appointment is required. No provider referral is necessary. This is a swab and send site.

COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, or body aches among many others. A comprehensive list of symptoms can be found at

Individuals who experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or who otherwise do not feel well should not go out in public, including for work, travel, school, worship, or gatherings of any size.

Republican Journal Assistant Editor Carolyn Zachary and Reporter Fran Gonzalez contributed to this story.

Brooks Pentecostal Church and Lighthouse Christian Academy on Route 139. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Varney Building sign in Brooks announces the Thrift Shop is closed following the COVID-19 outbreak in the town. Sign at right invites people to parking lot church services held by the adjacent Brooks Congregational Church, in accordance with CDC guidelines. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
(Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
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Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 18, 2020 12:21

Sad, yet not surprising:


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