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Another 11 cases of the new coronavirus were reported in Maine on Tuesday, including the first in Waldo County.
Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that there are now 118 cases spread across 10 counties. That’s up from 107 cases on Monday.
A majority of those who have contracted COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, are over age 50, while slightly more women than men have caught it, according to the Maine CDC.
Of those cases, Shah said that 15 Maine residents have been hospitalized with the coronavirus. Seven people have fully recovered and been released from isolation.
Another 3,014 Maine residents have tested negative for the coronavirus, up from 2,791 on Monday.
Shah acknowledged Tuesday that about 1,300 coronavirus tests await processing, a number he called “unacceptable.”
He attributed the backlog to a national shortage of a chemical needed to test for the coronavirus and the Maine CDC’s present focus on those Maine residents who are most at risk from it, namely those who are hospitalized and health care workers, among others.
But Shah said that his agency is working to reduce that backlog by acquiring new testing equipment and working with a commercial lab to more quickly turnaround test results.
The report of the first case in Waldo County comes a day after the number of coronavirus cases in Maine surpassed 100 for the first time and as Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday afternoon ramped up the state’s effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus by ordering many nonessential businesses to close by 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Some Maine cities and towns, including Bangor and Brunswick, already have issued similar orders.
Shah cautioned that the depth and breadth of the coronavirus outbreak is not yet known in Maine and that just because his agency has not confirmed a case in a given county does not mean it has yet to spread there.
“The cases we detect in any outbreak situation … merely represent the tip of the iceberg,” Shah said via videoconference from the Maine Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Augusta. “Now is the time to take public health action,” he said, urging Maine residents to take steps to protect themselves from the virus.
So far, the coronavirus has hit hardest in Cumberland County, where 74 cases have been reported, according to the Maine CDC.
Other cases have been detected in Androscoggin (3), Kennebec (5), Knox (1), Lincoln (5), Oxford (6), Penobscot (4), Sagadahoc (3), Waldo (1) and York (16) counties.
On Tuesday morning, union officials said that nearly half of the workforce at Bath Iron Works did not show up to work on the heels of the revelation that an employee at the shipyard had tested positive for the virus. The shipyard’s parent company, General Dynamics, said that worker had not been at the main yard since March 13.
Lewiston-based St. Mary’s Health System said Tuesday that one of its providers has tested positive for the coronavirus, but added that last worked clinically nine days ago.
As of Tuesday, the virus has sickened 44,183 people in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and caused 544 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Watch: Symptoms of the coronavirus disease