Maine is now “squarely seeing the effects” of coronavirus transmission from the Thanksgiving holiday almost three weeks ago as it posts record-breaking numbers of new infections — which doesn’t bode well for the effects of the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s celebrations on Maine’s surging virus trends, the state’s top public health official said on Wednesday.

“It’s not just Maine. It’s across the country: case numbers are going up and up and up,” said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on the same day Maine shattered the record for new daily infections with 554 of them.

The continuing surge “does not augur well” for the coming holidays, Shah continued, given the already great number of existing infections and the possibility that they could keep multiplying if people hold lengthy indoor celebrations with their friends and family, some of whom may be unknowingly infected.

“As we’ve all seen with COVID, where you start dictates where you end up,” Shah said. “If you go into a season where more people are expected to be gathering in close quarters for long periods of time, if you go into those holidays with higher rates of disease, the likelihood that any one of those gatherings could be attended by somebody who has COVID itself goes up.”

There have been recent “anecdotal reports” of people asking health care providers about getting tested for COVID-19 before traveling to see family or welcoming guests around Christmas, Shah said. If Mainers are able to “stay in your pod,” he added, “that’s definitely the most helpful thing you can do this winter.”

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Shah has repeatedly pointed to private indoor gatherings as a significant driver of the continuing surge of coronavirus infections this fall. Before Thanksgiving, public health officials urged Americans to avoid such gatherings over the holiday. Overall traffic on Maine roads during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend was down 14 percent from last year, but the decrease apparently wasn’t enough to prevent a new wave of infections.

The virus is now widely and silently circulating in communities all across the state, even among people who don’t have any known connections to the nursing homes, restaurants, homeless shelters, workplaces and other settings that are facing outbreaks of the infection.

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