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Maine’s public health agency has released limited data showing the number of coronavirus cases by town, making Maine the last state in New England to release that more granular level of data showing the spread of the coronavirus.
The release of the data on the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention website late Wednesday comes more than a month after the Bangor Daily News requested the town-by-town data from the state, and was told it would take six months to release.
Portland has seen the highest number of coronavirus cases in the state, the newly released data show, which is unsurprising given that it’s Maine’s largest city and in Cumberland County, the state’s hardest-hit county.
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But the information, which is broken down by ZIP code, is limited because it doesn’t include ZIP codes where 50 or fewer people live, and it provides a range of case numbers for places that have seen five or fewer cases. In the two Maine counties that have seen one documented case each, Piscataquis and Washington, the CDC has suppressed all case count information to avoid potentially revealing the identities of those who were infected .
Unsurprisingly, towns in Cumberland County appear to have more cases overall, with Westbrook, South Portland and Falmouth all recording more than 100 cases each as of June 2. Portland has 456 cases across its four ZIP codes, while Lewiston, the second biggest city in the state, is next with 203 confirmed and probable cases.
Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah has consistently cited privacy concerns with the release of town-by-town data, saying someone in a town with a small population could be outed if data were published. He has mentioned in recent weeks, however, that the data would be released soon as the number of cases has risen.
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He has also argued the public may interpret the information to mean virus precautions may not be necessary if their municipality does not have a recorded case. He has consistently said everyone in Maine should take precautions against the coronavirus as if the infection is active in their own community.
The data are available on the Maine CDC’s coronavirus web page.