Another 22 cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed in Maine.
Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Monday that there are now 275 cases spread across 12 Maine counties.
That’s up from 253 on Sunday.
Of those, 49 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, at some time. Forty-one people have fully recovered and been released from isolation. Three Mainers have died since late last week from the virus.
Shah said that 43 health care workers are among those sickened with the coronavirus. That comes as Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport confirmed two doctors there have tested positive for the virus. Other infections include a nurse at Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast and a provider at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.
Health care workers are among those most at risk because of their close contact with those already sick with the coronavirus and a shortage of protective equipment, according to The Lancet.
A majority of the cases have been in Maine residents over age 50, while they are evenly split between women and men.
Another 6,088 Maine residents have tested negative for the coronavirus, up from 3,394 on Sunday, according to Shah.
“That is, again, a snapshot of a very fast-moving train,” Shah said via videoconference from the Maine Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Augusta.
Shah said that the Maine CDC has eliminated a testing backlog for those at highest risk of the coronavirus — those who are hospitalized and health care workers, among others — but his agency continues to work to boost its test capacity. Those efforts include decreasing reliance on chemicals needed to test for the coronavirus but that are in short supply. They also include adding new machinery, partnering with private laboratories and helping hospitals and other organizations build up their own testing capacity, according to Shah.
“It’s a three-legged stool, and we at the Maine CDC are working on every strategy we can to build up the number of tests,” he said.
Shah said that the Maine CDC was expecting to receive from the federal government later on Monday a shipment of personal protective equipment, including approximately 60,000 N95 masks, 143,000 procedural masks, 31,000 face shields, 25,000 surgical gowns, 1,500 coveralls and 184,000 gloves.
“What we understand is that this third shipment may be the last case the Maine CDC receives for quite some time. We are hoping that’s not true, but once again, hope is not an operational strategy in an emergency situation,” Shah said.
The national stockpile of protective equipment has been strained under the demand from state governments rapidly working to contain the spread of the coronavirus. States have been receiving only a portion of their requests from the federal stockpile, and there have been wide disparities in how much of their requests are being fulfilled, with Maine receiving only 5 percent of its requests, while Florida received everything it requested earlier this month and additional shipments since, according to the Washington Post.
It’s not clear why Maine has only been allocated a small portion of what it has requested, Shah said.
Life has been radically upended across Maine since the first case of the coronavirus in the state was confirmed more than two weeks ago. Weekly jobless claims surged to 21,459 from March 15 to 21, up from 634 the week before and well above those seen during the Great Recession. That came as businesses across the state were ordered to close as part of a push to halt the virus’ spread. Schools in some cities, including in Bangor, could be closed for the remainder of the school year.
So far, the coronavirus has hit hardest in Cumberland County, where 154 cases have been confirmed, according to the Maine CDC. It is one of two counties — the other is York County, with 53 cases — where “community transmission” has been confirmed.
Shah said that his agency is investigating the possibility of community transmission in Penobscot County, where cases have more than doubled to 12 since last week, and Kennebec County, where 10 cases have been detected.
At least 25 percent of those must not be connected with known cases or linked to travel in order to confirm community transmission is present, according to Shah.
Other cases have been detected in Androscoggin (8), Franklin (2), Knox (4), Lincoln (8), Oxford (9), Sagadahoc (7), Somerset (1) and Waldo (2) counties. Information about where another five cases were detected wasn’t immediately available Monday morning.
Health officials have cautioned that people live as though the coronavirus has spread to their county, even if there’s an absence of confirmed cases.
President Donald Trump on Sunday extended social distancing guidelines as federal officials brace for a nationwide death toll from the coronavirus that could reach between 100,000 and 200,000, according to the Associated Press.
As of Monday, the virus has sickened 140,904 people in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and caused 2,405 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Watch: Symptoms of the coronavirus disease