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Maine Reports 78 New Cases Of COVID-19, Largest One-day Surge Since The Pandemic Began

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference at the State House, in Augusta, Maine, Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Maine has now had 1,819 positive diagnoses of COVID-19, an increase of 78 cases since Tuesday and the largest one-day surge since the pandemic began. "This increase is not a surprise," said Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah at a briefing in Augusta Wedneday. Shah attributed the relatively high number of cases diagnosed overnight to recent efforts to step up testing.

Shah said the figure the state has been focusing on has been the "positivity rate" - the percentage of total tests confirmed as positive. He said that rate dropped last week from 5.9% to 5.4%. Nationally, the positivity rate is about 10% and well above 15% or higher in certain 'hotspots," Shah said.

Shah says his goal is to lower that down to two percent.  He says the CDC website will soon provide daily updates on the state's positivity rate.

Shah said the number of tests conducted on Mainers over the course of the pandemic totals 40,609, including antibody tests. He said Maine is now conducting about 1,000 tests a day, a rate that he said could help bring Maine's positivity rate down even further.

Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty, who joined Shah at the news conference, said of the 78 new cases, only one is related to a diagnosis of the disease in an inmate at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, that of the unidentified inmate.  He said nearly 700 prisoners and staff throughout the corrections system were tested yesterday, and some results of those tests could be available as early as Wednesday afternoon.

Shah said the state is also looking into two new outbreaks in congregate care facilities, one at Seal Rock long-term care facility that includes three cases, and another at Woodford Family Services consisting of three cases so far.

The state is monitoring several other outbreaks, Shah said, including five cases at Blue Star Home Care; 15 cases at Bristol Seafood, 23 cases at a Cianbro worksite - four more than Tuesday, 22 cases at Clover Health Care, and five cases at Durgin Pines.

Overall, 417 of Maine's COVID-19 have occurred among health care workers, Shah said.

Thirty-four of the 78 new cases diagnosed overnight are in Androscoggin County, 28 in Cumberland County and nine in York County. The rest are scattered among the state's 13 other counties.

The number of deaths remains at 73, unchanged from Tuesday.

So far, 1,110 of those infected have recovered from the disease, 22 more than Wednesday, and 231 have had to be hospitalized. Forty-three remain in the hospital, 24 of them in intensive care. Of those, 12 are on ventilators.

Updated May 20, 2020 at 14:45 p.m. ET.

Maine Public digital producer Barbara Cariddi contributed to this report.