Another two Mainers have died as health officials on Friday reported 321 new coronavirus cases across the state.
Friday’s report brings the total number of coronavirus cases in Maine to 21,547, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 21,226 on Thursday.
Of those, 18,517 have been confirmed positive, while 3,030 were classified as “probable cases,” the Maine CDC reported.
A Kennebec County resident and a York County resident have succumbed to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 319. Additional demographic details about those cases weren’t immediately available on Christmas. Nearly all deaths have been in Mainers over age 60.
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Maine’s seven-day average for new coronavirus cases is 461.6, down from 477.4 a day ago but up from 437 a week ago and up from 230 a month ago.
Friday’s report marked a sharp decline in new cases after back-to-back days when they rose above 700 and the first time they dipped below 400 since the weekend.
But that surge in new cases may have been in part due to Maine CDC investigators clearing a backlog in cases, the agency’s director, Nirav Shah, said Wednesday. Despite the record-breaking numbers Maine has seen in recent days, Shah noted that virus transmission might be stabilizing.
Health officials have warned Mainers that “forceful and widespread” community transmission is being seen throughout the state. Every county is seeing high community transmission, which the Maine CDC defines as a case rate of 16 or more cases per 10,000 people.
There are two criteria for establishing community transmission: at least 10 confirmed cases and that at least 25 percent of those are not connected to either known cases or travel.
So far, 1,020 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point with COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. Information about those who are currently hospitalized wasn’t immediately available.
Meanwhile, 29 more Mainers have recovered from the coronavirus, bringing total reported recoveries to 11,107. That means there are at least 10,121 active confirmed and “probable” cases in the state, which is up from 9,831 on Thursday.
Maine CDC data likely underestimate the true number of recoveries as investigators have struggled to keep up with the surge in virus transmission, making it difficult with them to follow up with previous cases to confirm recoveries. Instead, the Maine CDC is just releasing data on those recoveries directly reported to it. The underreported recoveries also affect the estimated number of likely active cases across the state.
A majority of the cases — 12,610 — have been in Mainers under age 50, while more cases have been reported in women than men, according to the Maine CDC.
As of Thursday, there have been 1,122,739 negative test results out of 1,149,642 overall. Nearly 2.3 percent of all tests have come back positive, the most recently available Maine CDC data show.
The coronavirus has hit hardest in Cumberland County, where 6,472 cases have been reported and where the bulk of virus deaths — 90 — have been concentrated. Other cases have been reported in Androscoggin (2,438), Aroostook (482), Franklin (436), Hancock (502), Kennebec (1,590), Knox (326), Lincoln (275), Oxford (1,037), Penobscot (1,844), Piscataquis (105), Sagadahoc (347), Somerset (685), Waldo (365), Washington (335) and York (4,300) counties. Information about where an additional eight cases were reported wasn’t immediately available.
As of Friday morning, the coronavirus had sickened 18,696,477 people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as caused 329,662 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.