State Suspends License of Millinocket Inn Cited in Outbreak [UPDATE]
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services on Friday reinstated the license of the Millinocket inn that hosted a wedding reception linked to a COVID-19 outbreak.
The restatement came after a Wednesday suspension of the Big Moose Inn's licence. State inspectors suspended the license after finding the inn was in violation of state restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus. Included among the listed violations were a failure to space dining room tables at six feet apart and failure of staff to wear face coverings.
Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the department worked the inn to remedy the violations. Lambrew addressed the issue at the Thursday news conference. You can hear her comments starting at the 16:54 mark of the video below.
An employee at the Big Moose told the Bangor Daily News they canceled reservations for Thursday night.
Last week, the inn was given a "imminent health hazard" citation after state heath officials determined it, by hosting the Aug. 7 reception, had violated the state's 50-person limit on indoor gatherings. There were 65 people at the reception.
The initial citation did not carry with it a fine, but Lambrew on Thursday reminded those found in violation of the governor's executive order could face financial penalties and be charged with a Class E crime punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Laurie Cormier, the owner of the Big Moose Inn, said in a Friday statement the facility was cited after misinterpreting the rules.
"We understood that there could be no more than 50 persons in our largest room. We did make an error in the interpretation of that rule. Our interpretation was that we could take a wedding party of more than 50 persons, and split them between two rooms as long as it didn’t exceed our total capacity or a specific room’s capacity. The State — perhaps, rightfully so — assumes that individuals from a larger group would ignore the room restrictions, and take the opportunity to co-mingle. Our interpretation of the rule put the Big Moose Inn in violation of the gathering of people over the maximum number allowed by Maine DECD guidelines."
Cormier said the facility has taken the pandemic seriously and has updated its protocol to better protect its guests.
"While we cannot be sure the virus was fully spread at our facility, we know that there are things that we can be doing better. We have given the Maine CDC our word, and we are giving our community and guests that same word that we will do — and are doing — better. We are updating our protocols as advised by the Maine CDC and will continue to keep our staff, community, and guests’ health and safety as our top priority."
The outbreak has affected at least 87 people, all but one of whom is from Maine. One person, who did not attend the event but was linked to the outbreak, has died.
The outbreak is also linked to smaller outbreaks in Madison and at the York County Jail.