AUGUSTA — The transmission rate in Waldo County remains “high,” with masks recommended, as the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, April 10, reported 50 more cases of COVID-19  since Aug. 5. That brings the county’s total cases to 1,269 since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Waldo County General Hospital reported eight cases among its staff, according to a story Aug. 10 in the Portland Press Herald. Maine CDC was investigating a total of nine outbreaks, defined as three cases with an epidemiological line, as of Monday, Aug. 9.

Total cases in Waldo County were up from 1,170 cases reported in the county at the end of July during a substantial uptick. There were 43 new cases reported in the seven days prior to July 31, six of them on July 30 alone.

No new deaths were reported in the county over the past week. Twenty-two people have died here since the pandemic began.

The CDC said Waldo County’s seven-day case rate Aug. 9 was 319.7 cases per 10,000 people, which is four to five times higher than rates in Cumberland and York counties.

According to the latest data from Maine CDC, 58.56% of Waldo County residents have received a final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, up slightly from 57.14% last week. The statewide total of those fully vaccinated also rose slightly to 64.2% of the population from 61.03% a week ago.

A COVID-19 outbreak at Calvary Chapel Belfast, now located at 271 New England Road in Searsmont, may have contributed to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Waldo County.

On Wednesday, Aug. 4, Pastor Greg Huston posted the following message on Facebook: “Due to the rapid spread of sickness in our community CC Belfast will be holding ‘Live Stream’ Services only for this week. That is for Thursday evening 8-5 AND Sunday 8-8. In the meantime we will be stepping up our cleaning and disinfecting, spacing out chairs and utilizing hand sanitizing stations. Please keep our community in your prayers as we serve our LORD through all of this. Grace and Peace.”

A string of messages from apparent Calvary Chapel Belfast members followed his post, some offering prayers for church families and those cleaning the church. One man posted, “We’re sick, so is (names of three other people).”

In his livestreamed Bible study on Facebook the evening of Aug. 5, the pastor said the reason for choosing that medium was “because of the increase and spread of general sickness, along with COVID-19 in our community … .”

“(Livestreaming is) certainly less than ideal,” he said, “but so many people are sick that we’re aware of in our church family and in this community and I think it’s a good time for everyone to … heal.”

Among the many posts in response was one from Huston’s wife, Briana, who wrote, “So many are sick. We are praying for you all!”

The extent of the outbreak is not known; an inquiry Aug. 6 to Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long about the outbreak received this emailed response: “Maine CDC has not opened an outbreak investigation associated with Calvary Chapel Belfast in Searsmont. Patient privacy laws prevent release of information about individual cases.”

A call Aug. 6 to Pastor Huston for comment has not been returned.

A Maine CDC chart of cases by ZIP Code as of Aug. 1 shows a range of 20-49 cases for several Waldo County codes (Liberty, Morrill/Belmont, Searsmont, Frankfort, Monroe, Troy and Freedom/Montville). Islesboro is lowest, with a range of 6-19, while Belfast/Swanville/Waldo’s shared ZIP Code is highest at 248.

Other towns and their case numbers or ranges by ZIP Code are: Palermo, 50-99; Unity, 73; Lincolnville/Northport, 87; Winterport, 95; Burnham, 50-99; Searsport, 64; Brooks/Jackson, 50-99; Thorndike/Knox, 50-99; and Stockton Springs/Prospect, 36.

For those who test positive, Maine CDC recommends: Isolate immediately. Do not wait for a call from Maine CDC to isolate. Stay in isolation until you meet the criteria to leave. Let close contacts know about their exposure. If you had close contact with a positive case: Quarantine at home for 10 days from your last exposure to the positive case. Stay in quarantine until you meet the criteria to leave.

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