The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday, Oct. 23, the case count associated with the outbreak in Waldo County has risen to 57, with nine people currently hospitalized.

Thursday, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said 49 people connected with the Brooks Pentecostal Church had tested positive for COVID-19. "We expect that number to increase over the next days," he said.

In all, Waldo County has seen 143 cases of COVID-19, with 14 deaths from with the disease. To date, 78 people have recovered from the virus in the county.

An individual previously classified as a probable case at Troy Howard Middle School has received a negative test result. The school is now not considered to be part of the recent Waldo County outbreak, he said.

The other three public schools associated with of Brooks church outbreak are Ames Elementary School in Searsmont, Capt. Albert W. Stevens School in Belfast and Mount View Elementary School in Thorndike. Shah said that while there are individual cases, there is no evidence of transmission within these schools and the cases are not considered outbreaks on their own.

In addition, seven people connected with the Lighthouse Christian School run by the church in Brooks have contracted the disease.

Another case connected with the church outbreak is a staff member from Bayview Manor in Searsport, a residential care facility.

Three area health care providers are offering extended testing for COVID-19: Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport (301-8000), Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast (338-2500), and Seaport Community Health Center also in Belfast (338-6900).

Shah said people should consider getting tested if they have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has attended the Brooks Pentecostal Church. If contacted by the Maine CDC contact tracers, Shah said, "Please answer their questions." Contact tracers also are a resource for where and when to get tested.

The idea that masks don't prevent spreading the virus, Shah said, is inaccurate. "It's not just about getting the virus," he said, "but also about transmitting the disease.

"I think we all can do better about wearing masks," Shah said.

Commissioner Janet Lambrew of the Department of Health and Human Services said people who refuse to wear a face covering in establishments such as retail stores, lodgings or state buildings can be charged. She admitted that to date, no one has been charged and said the enforcement is generally left up to the establishment.

"It is the last resort," she said, and encouraged education instead.