As of 11 a.m. Friday, March 20, 44 Maine residents have been confirmed positive and 12 others are presumed positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.
Another eight cases of the new coronavirus were reported in Maine on Friday, bringing the overall total to 56, according to health officials.
Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a Friday press conference that his office has confirmed 44 of the cases, while another 12 likely have the coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
Shah said five Maine residents have been hospitalized due to the coronavirus.
Another 2,264 Maine residents have tested negative for the coronavirus, up from 2,004 on Thursday, according to Shah.
Shah noted Friday that three cases involving non-residents in the state have been transferred to other states’ health departments. A fourth case initially tested positive at an outside laboratory, but the Maine CDC later determined it to be negative. He said those four cases were no longer included in the state’s count, bringing it to 56.
Friday’s results represent a smaller increase in new cases than Maine has seen in recent days. The Maine CDC on Thursday announced 10 new cases and 14 on Wednesday.
Shah cautioned, though, that it was too early to read into the slip into a single-digit increase.
“Unfortunately, it’s too early to tell right now. The fact is that this is a very fast-moving situation, and as much as I hope that this is a result of flattening the curve, it very well may not be. So it really is too early to read into anything because the trend is still going upward. Only time will tell, in retrospect, if this was a sign or just a temporary change in the reporting,” Shah told reporters.
“Flattening the curve” refers to delaying the peak of virus cases and spreading them over a longer period of time in order to reduce the burden on the health care system.
The news follows further efforts this week to halt the virus’ spread, with Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday banning gatherings of more than 10 people and ordering restaurants and bars to end dine-in service. The city of Bangor on Thursday afternoon extended restrictions under a temporary emergency order establishing an 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. curfew to other businesses, such as gyms and yoga studios, not covered by the governor’s order.
Public schools have closed across the state, and university campuses have emptied of students. And many churches are holding services and Masses online.
So far, the coronavirus has hit hardest in Cumberland County, where 35 cases have been detected, according to the Maine CDC. Shah has said there is evidence of “community transmission” in Cumberland County, but none yet in other counties where the coronavirus has been detected. Shah has said his agency does “anticipate community transmission” will eventually appear outside Cumberland County.
Other cases have been detected in Androscoggin (3), Kennebec (4), Lincoln (4), Oxford (1), Penobscot (2) and York (5) counties. Locations were not available Friday for two cases.
On Thursday, the Maine CDC reported a case had been detected in Hancock County. But Shah said Friday that case, diagnosed by a health care provider there, was determined to involve a Penobscot County resident and added to that county’s total.
By Friday evening, Ocean View at Falmouth announced a fifth resident had tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.
The resident, who was connected to the initial two cases, was in self-quarantine and is now being treated at Maine Medical Center.
Colby and Bates colleges on Thursday revealed that cases on the coronavirus had been confirmed on their campuses. Bates did not specify if the case there involved a student, staff or faculty member. Colby administrators said that an athletics department staffer had contracted the virus. Both are under isolation, the colleges said.
Bowdoin on Friday announced three of its students had, over spring break, come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. They have not returned to Brunswick or the Bowdoin campus and are self-isolating out-of-state.
A Maine CDC spokesperson, Robert Long, said in an email that more than 100 people in the state are in quarantine or isolation due to the coronavirus, but that number is extremely fluid.
The coronavirus is disrupting daily life in Maine, and looks as though that will continue well into the spring. Several school districts on Friday announced they are extending closures until late April, when the spring break ends. That includes Bangor and Lewiston, the state’s second largest city.
As of Thursday, the virus has sickened 10,442 people in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and caused 150 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
BDN writer Natalie Williams contributed to this report.
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