A statement from Laurie Cormier, owner of THE BIG MOOSE INN, in Millinocket was released this afternoon.
”The Big Moose Inn is aware that an outbreak of COVID-19 has been traced back to a wedding in the Katahdin Region in early August. Among the wedding-related events that weekend was a post-wedding dinner at our facility.
Our hearts go out to the family, those affected by the virus who were at the wedding, and those who have been impacted since then. There is no doubt that this virus is dangerous with wide-ranging impacts. We too are deeply saddened and frustrated by the many devastating impacts of COVID-19. This is a challenging time for all of us.
We have not spoken out about this out of respect for the wedding party and family, and to let the state investigation take place. But with so many questions and assumptions being put forth, we felt that we needed to respond.
The Big Moose Inn did receive a citation from the State for some infractions. It is important to note that because Big Moose Inn has separate rooms for dining as well as outdoor seating, the facility’s approved capacity during this time is 80 persons. 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.
The staff at Big Moose Inn has worked hard to follow all of the rules to the best of our understanding since we opened for the season on May 22. We have signage to let visitors know that masks are required; staff wears masks at all times when we are open to the public or in proximity to other staff; we have increased sanitizing and safety measures before, during, and after diners and guests visit our establishment; we have added space for increased physical distancing; and we take the temperature of guests at events prior to entering the building. The wedding attendees were all screened prior to entering, which helped to give us assurance that there were no symptoms being shown from anyone at the Big Moose Inn over the course of that weekend.
Once we were made aware of the outbreak, the CDC took the lead on contacting anyone who might have been at risk of coming in contact with anyone at the wedding, the reception, or any other potential events the wedding party participated in that weekend. The Big Moose Inn has had all of our staff members tested or self-quarantining. None of the servers working that evening have tested positive. Our employees have received 23 negative tests, two tests are still outstanding, and five self-quarantined. We have, however, had two employees test positive since the post-wedding dinner. Internal contact tracing suspects the employees picked it up from an outside source. Those who tested positive have completed their quarantine.
While the Maine CDC managed the notification of anyone who might have come in contact that weekend, we have also been informing guests prior to arrival about the recent outbreak and will continue to do so between now and the end of the season. We are further enhancing our sanitization measures. We have gotten clarity on the rules from the Maine CDC regarding group capacity and our venue capacity, and we have been fully cooperative with the CDC’s field epidemiologist, CDC officials, and state and local officials.
Earlier this week we were informed that our license was being temporarily suspended because a state inspection found continued violation of restrictions in our dining area. The dining area was closed to customers at the time of the inspection. At that point, it had not been open for a couple of weeks.
We quickly corrected the violations as though we were open, and our license was reinstated earlier today.
The Big Moose Inn is a family-owned business. We have taken the pandemic seriously, followed the rules as we have understood them, and gone above and beyond those rules to try and keep our guests, staff, and community safe.
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.”
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