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Public health officials, in Maine and across the country, are pleading with Americans to forgo travel and large gatherings this Thanksgiving to slow the spread of coronavirus. They, along with many governors, are requiring residents to wear masks and have restricted business activity.
Their reasoning is sound: The coronavirus is raging out of control across the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged Amerians to avoid travel and to celebrate Thanksgiving with only those who live in their household.
Still, there are those who are resistant to the messages urging them to take safety precautions to protect themselves and others, as people who spread the virus often show no symptoms.
Last week, our news department colleague Charles Eichacker delineated five numbers that show the severity of the COVID spread in Maine.
His assessment bears repeating, with a little updating, and only further highlights the increasing severity of the pandemic in Maine.
First, a new number: 12. That’s how many new coronavirus-related deaths Maine health officials reported Tuesday. It was the most deaths reported in one day since the pandemic began in March. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention clarified that all the deaths did not occur in the previous 24 hours. Rather, they occurred over the last several days and were reported on Tuesday.
This is a grim milestone and reminder of the ongoing and heightened danger posed by the virus.
Five of the deaths were in Somerset County, four were in York and one each in Androscoggin, Franklin and Washington counties. There were no deaths in Cumberland County, which has been a virus hotspot.
Also on Tuesday, the Maine CDC reported 258 new cases of coronavirus, also a new record. Hancock was the only county without a new case.
Maine’s seven-day average for new coronavirus cases is 207.9, up from 37.4 a month ago.
These numbers reiterate that community spread is occurring across the state.
Hospitalizations, and critical care unit utilization for COVID patients, are also on the rise.
On Thursday, 88 Mainers were hospitalized with COVID. That number has since risen to 105 by Tuesday, with 43 in critical care units and nine on ventilators.
In addition to the shocking number of cases, it is alarming how fast they are increasing. It took just six days in November to tally 1,000 new cases, as the state exceeded 9,000 cumulative cases on Nov. 15. It took only another six days to surpass 10,000 cases.
Between March and mid-October, it took a month or longer for the state to add each new increment of 1,000 cases. But that rate has sped up markedly since late October.
All 16 counties in Maine have seen cases in November. In the early days of the pandemic, the majority of cases were in Cumberland and York Counties. In mid-November, Androscoggin, Washington and Somerset counties had the largest per capita increases in COVID cases.
These numbers are a stark reminder that taking precautions and following state and federal guidelines — especially avoiding unnecessary travel and large indoor gatherings, along with wearing a mask and maintaining distance from others — is vital to protect your health and that of your loved ones, friends, coworkers and community members.