Two more people in Maine who tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus have died, bringing the total to three. And 42 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Maine as of noon Sunday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The individuals were a woman in her 80s and a man in his 60s, both from Cumberland County, the Maine CDC said Sunday.
Both individuals were hospitalized at the time of their deaths.
The additions Sunday bring the statewide total to 253 in 12 of Maine’s 16 counties, up from 89 cases a week ago. The biggest rise was in Cumberland County, with 22 new cases.
With the number of new cases escalating in Maine, Gov. Janet Mills last Tuesday ramped up the state’s fight against the virus by ordering public-facing non-essential businesses to close. Portland, South Portland and Brunswick issued emergency “stay-at-home” orders limiting the movement of residents to essential activities such as grocery shopping and exercise. The temporary orders in each community may be extended in efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
“This increase is concerning. But it is consistent with the anticipated spread of cases in number and geography,” Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine CDC, said during a Saturday media briefing.
On Friday, the state reported the first coronavirus-related death, a man in his 80s in Cumberland County who had previously tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Penobscot County added another case to reach 11 on Sunday. And Kennebec County reached 10 cases, which is one of the thresholds for determining community spread.
Unlike Cumberland and York counties, Shah said Saturday community spread has not yet been confirmed in Penobscot County.
“Our investigation is underway, and that may change,” Shah said. He was not available Sunday to report whether Kennebec County is seeing community spread.
He said community spread occurs when there are a minimum of 10 cases and at least 25 percent of them are not linked to travel to areas known to be hard hit by the virus or linked to another known case.
Also of concern are the three dozen health care workers in Maine who have now tested positive for the virus, he said, adding that it is difficult to tell if they were infected inside or outside the hospital.
The number of negative test results was 3,394 as of Sunday.
Of the confirmed cases, 62 percent are in people over age 50, according to the Maine CDC.
The confirmed cases are split almost equally between sexes, with 129 male and 124 female.
Forty-five individuals were hospitalized in Maine as of Sunday with the virus, and 41 have recovered.
Shah said Saturday the testing backlog had been reduced from 1,300 to 826 as of Friday.
Testing is being done on what Shah called high-risk people in prisons or jails and those experiencing homelessness.
“Anyone in a congregate setting is in higher risk,” he said. “Those experiencing homelessness are a high priority population for us.”
People who test positive will need to be isolated in either a hotel room provided for them or in an area cordoned off in the facility where they may be staying.
Shah said he believes some testing of prisoners has been done, but no tests have come back positive.
He said the Maine CDC is working with the Maine Department of Corrections and others to get testing done.
The Maine CDC so far has fielded 3,675 consultation requests from health care workers and physicians across the state, according to Shah. Of those, 3,394 Mainers had tested negative for the coronavirus.
Cumberland County has been hit hardest by the coronavirus, with 142 confirmed cases and three deaths as of Sunday. York County — which Shah said Thursday was now experiencing community spread — has 47 confirmed cases.
Other cases have been detected in Androscoggin (8 confirmed; 3 recovered), Franklin (2 confirmed), Kennebec (10 confirmed; 2 recovered), Knox (4 confirmed), Lincoln (5 confirmed; 2 recovered), Oxford (9 confirmed, 2 recovered), Penobscot (11 confirmed; 5 recovered), Sagadahoc (7 confirmed) and Waldo (2 confirmed) counties. Locations for another five people were not immediately available Sunday.
Somerset became the newest county to report a confirmed case, one person, as of Sunday. Only Aroostook, Hancock, Piscataquis and Washington counties have yet to report a confirmed case.
There are 86 available intensive care unit beds out of a total of about 164. There are also 247 available ventilators out of an approximate 308, Shah said during a Maine CDC news conference Friday.
Shah said the state received the second shipment of equipment for health care workers and first responders from the strategic national stockpile last week.
He said new equipment that could help reduce the testing backlog is on order and he is waiting to hear when it will ship. That equipment, along with work performed by a commercial lab and tests run at the Maine CDC’s lab, together will chip away at the backlog, he said.
“Right now we are preparing the distribution of that equipment in a fair and equitable manner across the state,” Shah said at the Friday briefing. He noted that so far Maine has not received enough equipment. Shah said he supports Mills’ call to the federal government to release additional supplies.
“The infections, as we know, will continue to rise in number and geographic distribution,” Shah said. “Having that protective equipment will be critical to ensuring the safety of our front-line workers so that they can continue to test patients who may be suspected of having COVID-19 as well as continue to care for patients who have COVID-19 disease.”
Shah added that since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has liberalized the rules around what types of ventilators can be used for patients with COVID-19, Maine changed its system to better track the availability of such ventilators. In the past day, the number of those ventilators that hospitals reported has increased from 12 to 58.
The Maine CDC also received additional reagents, chemicals used to conduct the test for confirming a COVID-19 diagnosis. The Maine CDC now has a total capacity to provide tests for approximately 3,000 patients, Shah said.
“However, we know that additional cases are coming on the horizon,” Shah said. “So we are continuing with the plans that we’ve talked about here to make sure we have additional support from commercial laboratories and via the acquisition of new pieces of equipment. Our goal is to have, statewide, the most robust testing architecture that we can.”
The number of confirmed cases in the United States passed a milestone of 100,000 last week, the most of any country in the world. Data from Johns Hopkins University show total U.S. cases at 124,686 as of 7:45 a.m. Sunday, up more than 19,000 in one day. Italy has 92,472 cases and China has 82,120. Total positive cases worldwide are 679,977, up more than 58,000 overnight. Globally there are 31,734 deaths, up more than 3,000 since Saturday morning, and 145,625 people have recovered from the virus.
Across New England, Massachusetts had the most positive cases, 4,257, as of Sunday morning, according to Johns Hopkins. The state confirmed 1,000 new cases alone on Saturday. Connecticut followed with 1,524 new cases, Rhode Island with 239, New Hampshire with 214 and Vermont with 211.