Maine may have just gotten a peek into how the coronavirus pandemic will end, with Monday’s announcement that some hospitals will start to vaccinate their frontline workers against the virus as early as Wednesday.
But that good news couldn’t obscure the more daunting truth that the virus is still raging across the state at greater and greater levels, continuing to break new daily records for infections, deaths and hospitalizations. That’s on track to keep happening, as it’s expected to take many months for vaccines to become available to the general public.
TRACKING THE CORONAVIRUS IN MAINE
“Let’s not forget the storm even as the sun is emerging,” said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, during a news conference.
Just over three weeks ago, the Bangor Daily News highlighted five numbers to show the worsening state of the pandemic. Here are those numbers three weeks later, updated to show how bad the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be in Maine:
3: The numbers of days it took Maine to cross the threshold of 16,000 cases after hitting 15,000
The speed at which Maine is discovering new cases of the coronavirus has been accelerating since the end of summer, when it took 43 days to jump from 4,000 to 5,000 total cases
between early August and late September.
Since then, it’s required less and less time for the state to add new increments of 1,000 cases to its pandemic total, taking a month to reach 6,000 cases after crossing the 5,000-case threshold, then two weeks to reach 7,000, then fewer than eight days for each additional benchmark.
In December, the state has been recording 1,000 new infections every three days, as the total count for the whole pandemic has jumped from 12,000 to more than 16,000 in just two weeks.
26.9: The percentage of Maine’s coronavirus cases the state has recorded in December alone
The month of December isn’t even halfway done, but it has already accounted for a quarter of the state’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic first arrived in Maine last March.
Just this month, the state recorded 4,391 new cases through Dec. 13. In a sign of how much more quickly Maine is adding new cases, the state had seen 2,117 new cases in the first 13 days of November and 380 in the first 13 days of October.
Those rapidly growing case numbers come as Shah has repeatedly warned that the virus now appears to be growing exponentially in Maine as more people spend time gathering indoors during cold weather, potentially exposing their friends and family to the virus.
Echoing the words of top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, Shah recently said that the state is seeing “the surge on top of the surge” of new COVID-19 cases. He has repeatedly urged Mainers to be vigilant about wearing face masks, avoiding gatherings and taking other precautions to cut the spread of the virus.
198: The number of Mainers hospitalized with the coronavirus on Monday
Just as Maine is still breaking new records for confirmed daily infections, it’s also continuing to set new records for the numbers of infected people who are so sick that they are in the hospital.
That number reached a new high of 198 on Monday, due in part to significant numbers of sick patients at some of the state’s biggest hospitals in Portland, Lewiston, Augusta and Bangor. But the state’s smaller hospitals have also been increasingly hit with coronavirus patients after going months treating very few or none of them.
10: The number of days it took December to become the state’s 3rd deadliest month during the pandemic
Hospitalizations and deaths are generally considered “lagging indicators” of the spread of COVID-19, since it can take days or weeks for an infected person to become seriously sick.
Even so, they both offer clear evidence of just how devastating the virus has become, and just as hospitalizations keep going up in Maine, so do deaths. It only took 10 days for December to surpass May as the third deadliest month in the pandemic.
The state had recorded 42 coronavirus deaths this month as of Sunday, and with more than two weeks still to go in December, it’s on track to become the deadliest. November currently holds that grim distinction, after 70 people died.
42: The number of Maine communities remaining that haven’t seen a resident test positive for COVID-19
Just as all of Maine’s 16 counties are now regularly seeing new cases and outbreaks of the virus, the number of individual communities that have avoided a positive case is shrinking as it silently spreads to places that saw few or no cases early in the pandemic.
The number of communities that had yet to see a resident test positive for COVID-19 was 42 as of Dec. 6, according to data on individual ZIP codes — some of which include multiple towns — collected by the state. That was down from 50 just a week before, 95 at the start of November and 129 at the beginning of October.
The widespread community transmission of the virus has made it harder for the state to track the links between new cases and prompted the Maine CDC to roll back its efforts to investigate the origins of all cases.