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Another 13 new cases of the coronavirus were reported Thursday as it was detected for the first time in Franklin County.
Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Thursday that the overall total of cases now stands at 155.
Of those, Shah said that 22 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Sixteen people have recovered and been released from isolation.
A majority of the cases have been in Maine residents over age 50, while slightly more women than men have caught the coronavirus, according to Shah.
[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]
Shah said that 16 health care workers are among those who have been stricken with the coronavirus. That includes a nurse from 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.
He also noted that his agency has identified those who were in contact with a worker at a Maine Department of Health and Human Services office in Lewiston who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Shah said they have been asked to quarantine themselves and that the office has been temporarily closed for cleaning.
Another 3,394 Maine residents have tested negative for the coronavirus, up from 3,177 on Wednesday.
Shah said his agency continues to work to reduce the wait time for results from coronavirus tests. The Maine CDC is now working with a private laboratory to more quickly turnaround those results, but Shah noted that lab also faces a backlog in tests to process.
Thursday’s test results mark a slight increase from the 142 reported on Wednesday. It was a little more than two weeks ago when the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in the state. Since then, life has been radically upended. Nearly all nonessential businesses have been ordered to close, restaurants and bars have been limited to takeout and delivery service and gatherings of more than 10 people have been prohibited, all to halt the spread of the coronavirus. The city of Portland this week became the first location in the state to order residents to shelter in place for at least the next few days.
“The things we thought were utterly inconceivable a month ago … are now completely commonplace, if not entirely obvious,” Shah said via videoconference from the Maine Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Augusta.
[A guide to the businesses that must close and can stay open in Maine]
So far, the coronavirus has hit hardest in Cumberland County, where 90 cases have been reported, according to the Maine CDC. Shah said that “community transmission” has now been confirmed in York County, in addition to Cumberland County. There’s not yet evidence of that elsewhere in the state, but Shah said that is expected to change.
Other cases have been detected in Androscoggin (5), Franklin (1), Kennebec (6), Knox (1), Lincoln (5), Oxford (8), Penobscot (5), Sagadahoc (4), Waldo (2) and York (27) counties. Information about where another case was reported wasn’t immediately available Wednesday.
Shah again cautioned Maine residents to live as though the coronavirus has been detected in their counties.
Shah praised Maine residents for their “grit” and “community spirit” as they have adjusted their lives by restricting their movement and distance from others as public health officials work to gain control of the outbreak.
“We will get through this, and we will do so partly because our approach is informed not just by science, but by kindness, humanity and compassion,” Shah said. “We can and must remain together even though, for now, we may be apart.”
As of noon Thursday, the virus has sickened 68,440 people in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and caused 994 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Watch: What older adults need to know about COVID-19