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Maine Receives First Shipment Of Remdesivir As 15 New Cases Of COVID-19 Emerge

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah at a coronavirus briefing in Augusta March 12, 2020.

Fifteen more Mainers have been confirmed with COVID-19, for a total of 1,477 cases, according to the state Center for Disease Control.The number of people with the disease who have died remains at 65, which is unchanged from Monday.

Seven of the new cases are in Cumberland County, five are in Androscoggin County, 2 in York County and 1 in Kennebec County, according to new figures the Maine CDC posted Tuesday.

Thirty-four people remain in the hospital, 17 of them in critical care, and eight of those in the ICU are on a ventilator, out of a total of 202 hospitalized since the pandemic began.

At a briefing today in Augusta, Dr. Nirav Shah said there are no new outbreaks in Maine congregate care settings, and that an outbreak at the Tall Pines nursing home in Belfast appears to be over. He says there haven't been any new cases for well over two weeks, which is longer than the typical incubation period for the illness.

"In addition to there not having been any new cases now for 18 days, yesterday the last staff member at Tall Pines was released from isolation," he says.

Shah says the CDC is still working with Tall Pines to prevent a secondary spike. During the outbreak, 11 staff and 32 residents tested positive for COVID-19. Thirteen residents with the illness died.  

Shah also applauded what he called a new tool in the state's fight against the virus, a shipment Tuesday of the drug remdesivir. Shah said the shipment was enough for about 50 patients and the CDC began distributing it immediately to hospitals across the state to help the most critically ill patients.

"We know from hearing from physicians across the state that there are critical patients in ICUs across the state that physicians would like to start using this drug on," he said.

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that remdesivir may be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19, especially those with severe cases. 

Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, who joined Shah at the briefing, announced that the Mills administration is launching a campaign aimed at informing Mainers of their health insurance options. Lambrew said people losing their jobs and incomes due to the coronavirus could be eligible for MaineCare or other coverage to help fill the gap. Information is available at coverME.gov.

Lambrew also said she was expecting new guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control that could allow Maine dentists to reopen for more than urgent care.  She said if that guidance hasn't been issued by Monday, May 18, the state will defer to the recommendations of the Maine Dental Association.

Maine Public digital producer Barbara Cariddi contributed to this report.

Updated May 12, 2020 at 2:46 p.m. ET.