Another Mainer has died as health officials on Tuesday reported 12 more cases of the coronavirus in the state.
But state health officials also cautioned that some of those case numbers would change on Wednesday because of apparently false positive test results from a summer camp that found seemingly positive cases using a less reliable testing technology.
In the morning, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported that there have now been 3,723 cases across all of Maine’s counties since the outbreak began here in March. That was up from 3,711 on Monday.
Of those, 3,300 had been confirmed positive, while 423 were classified as “probable cases,” according to the Maine CDC.
But on Tuesday afternoon, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah announced that an unspecified number of cases were going to be removed from the “probable” count on Wednesday because they were the result of inaccurate results from a summer camp that he didn’t identify,
That camp has done repeated, precautionary testing of its campers and counselors for COVID-19 using a newer technique called antigen testing, which looks for proteins from the virus in samples collected from the nose. Last week, that routine testing found a number of positive cases among campers, even though everyone at the camp had previously tested negative multiple times, Shah said.
But when the state did follow-up testing using a more reliable technique that looks for genetic material from the virus, the cases came back negative, Shah said. Now, the state plans to remove those false positive cases from the probable count.
Shah noted that while antigen testing can be done more quickly, its results can also be “a little less accurate” than the more common PCR technique. In general, antigen testing is meant to be used for initial screenings that can then be confirmed by PCR tests, according to NPR.
Now, the Maine CDC is working with federal health officials to determine whether there might be a problem with the testing device that the camp uses, Shah added.
According to the data Maine CDC initially released on Tuesday, new cases were tallied in Androscoggin (1), Aroostook (2), Cumberland (4), Kennebec (1), Penobscot (2), Sagadahoc (1) and York (2) counties. Daily changes in county-level data may vary from new case reports as the Maine CDC continues to investigate cases.
The latest death involved a Cumberland County resident, bringing the statewide death toll to 118. Nearly all deaths have been in Mainers over age 60.
So far, 377 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Of those, 12 people are currently hospitalized, with eight in critical care and four on ventilators.
Meanwhile, 32 more people have recovered from the coronavirus, bringing total recoveries to 3,191. That means there are 414 active and likely cases in the state, down from 435 on Monday.
A majority of the cases — 2,080 — have been in Mainers under age 50, while more cases have been reported in women than men, according to the Maine CDC.
As of Tuesday, there have been 145,131 negative test results out of 150,299 overall. Just over 3 percent of all tests have come back positive, Maine CDC data show.
The coronavirus has hit hardest in Cumberland County, where 1,963 cases have been confirmed and where the bulk of virus deaths — 68 — have been concentrated. It is one of four counties — the others are Androscoggin, Penobscot and York, with 513, 136 and 601 cases, respectively — where “community transmission” has been confirmed, according to the Maine CDC.
There are two criteria for establishing community transmission: at least 10 confirmed cases and that at least 25 percent of those are not connected to either known cases or travel. That second condition has not yet been “satisfied” in other counties.
Other cases have been detected in Aroostook (30), Franklin (44), Hancock (19), Kennebec (150), Knox (25), Lincoln (31), Oxford (49), Piscataquis (4), Sagadahoc (36), Somerset (33), Waldo (60) and Washington (6) counties. Information about where another 23 cases were detected wasn’t immediately available Tuesday morning.
As of Tuesday morning, the coronavirus has sickened 3,845,680 people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as caused 141,118 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
BDN writer Charles Eichacker contributed reporting.