As of noon Sunday, March 22, 89 Maine residents have been confirmed 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.
Eight people are hospitalized in Maine due to the new coronavirus that has caused a global pandemic, according to a health official.
Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sunday that as the number of confirmed cases in Maine continues to climb — the statewide total on Sunday now stands at 89 — Mainers should take precautions now and assume that COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already reached all parts of the state.
“Now is the time to begin preparing,” Shah said, adding that maintaining physical distance from other people is the primary means by which Maine residents should try to avoid catching the coronavirus.
Shah said the Maine CDC does not have tangible evidence that COVID-19 is spreading yet by community transmission outside of Cumberland County, where 53 cases have been confirmed, but that if the disease is not yet spreading elsewhere in Maine through incidental contact — that is, from a source that cannot be determined — it likely will soon.
“We fully anticipate community transmission happening in other counties in Maine,” Shah said.
Outside Cumberland County, the county with the most confirmed cases is York County with eight. Kennebec, Lincoln and Oxford counties each have four confirmed cases, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties both have three, and Penobscot County has two. The Maine CDC has yet to confirm where in Maine eight more confirmed coronavirus patients live.
Shah urged Mainers not to take numbers posted on the Maine CDC website too literally. Just because cases have not been confirmed in some counties does not mean the coronavirus has yet to reach those counties, he said.
“They could provide folks with a false sense of security,” he said.
For health care professionals, much-needed protection equipment is on the way. Shah said that the Maine CDC plans on Monday to distribute 22,000 items of personal protection equipment — including facemasks, face shields and gloves — throughout Maine. He said the agency still expects to get some more equipment from the federal government, but that even more is needed in Maine to help health care providers handle the growing outbreak.
“It’s still not sufficient,” Shah said. “What we have gotten is a start, but it’s still not what we need right now.”
According to Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long, the equipment scheduled to be distributed Monday to Maine health care providers includes 2,400 N95 facemasks, which are designed to from a tight seal around the wearer’s nose and mouth; 8,200 procedural masks, which cover the nose and mouth but without a protective seal around the edge; 1,800 clear face shields; and 6,000 gloves. The remaining 3,000 or so items to be distributed are an assortment of gowns, shoe covers and similar pieces of other protective clothing, Long said.
Watch: Symptoms of the coronavirus disease