Forty-three new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Maine on Saturday, the largest one-day increase so far. That brings the statewide total to 211 in 11 counties. The biggest rise was in Cumberland County with an increase of 28 cases.
“This increase is concerning. But it is consistent with the anticipated spread of cases in number and geography,” Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a Saturday press briefing.
Penobscot County saw its number of confirmed cases nearly double to 10 on Saturday. That’s one of the thresholds for determining community spread.
Unlike Cumberland and York counties, it does not yet have community spread, according to Shah.
“Our investigation is underway, and that may change,” Shah said.
He said community spread occurs when there are a minimum of 10 cases and at least 25 percent of them are not linked to travel to areas known to be hard hit by the virus or linked to another known case.
Also of concern are the three dozen health care workers in Maine who have now tested positive for COVID-19, he said, adding that it is difficult to tell if they were infected inside or outside the hospital.
The latest update on confirmed cases in Maine came a day after the state reported the death of a man in his 80s in Cumberland County who had previously tested positive for COVID-19. It was the first death in Maine of a person who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Of the confirmed cases, 34 percent are in their 40s and 50s, while 35 percent are in their 60s and 70s. Only 10 percent each are in their 20s and 80s, while 9 percent are in their 30s and 2 percent are younger than 20, according to the Maine CDC.
The confirmed cases are split almost equally between sexes, with 107 women and 104 men.
The number of confirmed cases in the United States passed a milestone of 100,000 this week, the most of any country in the world. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows total U.S. cases at 105,470 as of 11 a.m. Saturday. Italy has 86,498 cases and China has 81,997. Total positive cases worldwide are 621,636, with 28,658 deaths. Some 135,752 people have recovered from the virus.
Forty-one individuals were hospitalized in Maine as of Saturday with COVID-19. Thirty-six people have recovered as of Saturday.
Shah said the testing backlog for COVID-19 was reduced from 1,300 to 826 as of Friday.
Testing is being done on what Shah called high-risk people in prisons or jails and those experiencing homelessness.
“Anyone in a congregate setting is in higher risk,” he said. “Those experiencing homelessness are a high priority population for us.”
People who test positive will need to be isolated in either a hotel room provided for them or in an area cordoned off in the facility where they may be staying.
Shah said he believes some testing of prisoners has been done, but no tests have come back positive.
He said the Maine CDC is working with the Maine Department of Corrections and others to get testing done.
The Maine CDC has fielded 3,675 consultation requests from health care workers and physicians across the state, according to Shah. Of those, 3,394 Mainers had tested negative for COVID-19.
Cumberland County has been hit hardest by the coronavirus, with 120 confirmed cases as of Saturday. York County — which Shah on Thursday said was now experiencing community spread — has 38 confirmed cases.
Other cases have been detected in Androscoggin (7 confirmed; 3 recovered), Franklin (2 confirmed), Kennebec (9 confirmed; 2 recovered), Knox (2 confirmed), Lincoln (5; 2 recovered), Oxford (8 confirmed, 2 recovered), Penobscot (10 confirmed; 5 recovered), Sagadahoc (5 confirmed) and Waldo (2 confirmed) counties. No new counties reported confirmed cases as of Saturday.
There are 86 available intensive care unit beds out of a total of about 164. There are also 247 available ventilators out of an approximate 308, Dr. Nirav Shah said during the CDC press conference Friday.
Shah said the state received the second shipment of equipment for health care workers and first responders from the strategic national stockpile earlier this week.
He said new equipment that could help reduce the testing backlog is on order and he is waiting to hear when it will ship. That equipment, along with work performed by a commercial lab and tests run at the Maine CDC’s lab, together will chip away at the backlog, he said.
“Right now we are preparing the distribution of that equipment in a fair and equitable manner across the state,” Shah said in a Friday briefing. He noted that so far Maine has not received enough equipment. Shah said he supports Mills’ call to the federal government to release additional supplies.
“The infections, as we know, will continue to rise in number and geographic distribution,” Shah said. “Having that protective equipment will be critical to ensuring the safety of our frontline workers so that they can continue to test patients who may be suspected of having COVID-19 as well as continue to care for patients who have COVID-19 disease.”
Shah added that since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has liberalized the rules around what types of ventilators can be used for patients with COVID-19, Maine changed its system to better track the availability of such ventilators. In the past day, the number of those ventilators that hospitals reported has increased from 12 to 58.
The Maine CDC also received additional reagents, chemicals used to conduct the test for confirming a COVID-19 diagnosis. The Maine CDC now has a total capacity to provide tests for approximately 3,000 patients, Shah said.
“However, we know that additional cases are coming on the horizon,” Shah said. “So we are continuing with the plans that we’ve talked about here to make sure we have additional support from commercial laboratories and via the acquisition of new pieces of equipment. Our goal is to have, statewide, the most robust testing architecture that we can.”