CDC: One wedding led to 177 cases of COVID-19 and 7 deaths because attendees refused to wear masks and physically distance

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  • One wedding in Maine became a landmark case for "super-spreader" events, and researchers are still studying it. 
  • The event led to 177 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths.
  • In a new report, CDC officials said it's emerged that guests ignored requests and signs telling them to wear masks and to socially distance.
  • After five of the wedding attendees tested positive for COVID-19, cases spread hundreds of miles to a correctional facility and a long-term care center.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Following a months-long investigation into a Maine wedding-turned-super-spreader event, the state's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined the single event led to 177 COVID-19 cases.

According to a report out today from the CDC, the August 7 wedding reception at Big Moose Inn in rural Maine included five people who tested positive for COVID-19, the infection the coronavirus causes.

After launching an investigation into these five cases, CDC officials found 30 more COVID-19 infections directly linked to the wedding, plus 27 in the surrounding area.

Following the event, officials continued to find cases linked to the wedding and tallied a total of 177 cases, seven deaths, and three other hospitalizations. The cases spread to a correctional facility 200 miles away from the wedding venue, and a long-term care facility 100 miles away.

Officials also learned that signs posted at Big Moose Inn during the event instructed guests to wear masks, but "guests did not follow this requirement or stay six feet apart – and staff members did not enforce these measures," the CDC report says. Staff members wore masks themselves.

An August 7 wedding in Maine became a super-spreader event that led to 177 COVID-19 infections.

Before the wedding-related outbreak, offices and assisted living facilities were the only locations known to have caused outbreaks in Maine, Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long told CBS.

Weddings have become hotspots for coronavirus spread

Other states have also experienced coronavirus outbreaks as the result of weddings.

In July, a San Francisco couple and eight of their wedding guests tested positive for COVID-19 after a city official shut down their secret 100-person event at Saints Peter & Paul Church.

"This is the perfect example of why public health officials have been trying to convince people of the problems with getting together in crowds," John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley told the San Francisco Chronicle of the incident.

That same month, WHO warned that singing, talking, or yelling in enclosed spaces like restaurants, bars, places of worship, and wedding venues could spread COVID-19.

Previously, research suggested coronavirus particles from an infected person immediately drop to the ground when released, making them unlikely to infect another person who's six feet or more away.

But researchers now believe the virus could spread differently indoors, regardless of how soft or loud a person speaks. If indoors, an infected person could release aerosols, or minuscule particles that float in the air. These aerosol particles become trapped inside due to poor ventilation and are more likely to come into contact with another person than a droplet that falls to the ground.

"In these outbreaks, aerosol transmission, particularly in these indoor locations where there are crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected persons spend long periods of time with others, cannot be ruled out," WHO wrote.

Weddings fit that bill, and ones in New York, Pennsylvania, and Kansas have also been tied to local coronavirus outbreaks.

Houston-based wedding planner Sarah Bett told the New York Times that it's nearly impossible to get every guest to abide by coronavirus safety protocols, especially when different venues have different rules.

"Some venues make the bride wear masks, while others say those walking down the aisle are exempt," she told the Times. "It's a little lawless down here.

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