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5 More Mainers Die As 28 New Cases Of COVID-19 Are Diagnosed

Nick Woodward
Maine Public
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah at a media briefing March 27, 2020.

Maine's death toll from COVID-19 has now reached 94, five more than Monday, as 28 new cases were diagnosed overnight. That's according to Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah, who reported at a media briefing in Augusta Tuesday that Maine has identified a total of 2,377 cases of the disease since the outbreak's onset.Four of the people who died were from Cumberland County, where 14 of the new cases were diagnosed, and one was from Penobscot County. Shah said among the Cumberland County deaths, two were women in their 70s, one was a man in his 60s and another was a woman in her 100s. The fourth death, in Penobscot County, was a man in his 70s.

Shah said 572 of Maine's cases so far have been among health care workers. 

He said the state continues to work on several outbreaks at long-term care facilities, including one at the Portland Family Shelter and another at Procter and Gamble's Tambrands facility in Auburn, where seven cases have been identified and tests have been underway. Shah said some results of those tests are expected within the next few days.

He said state health officials also continue to work with Cape Memory Care in Cape Elizabeth, where 83 cases have turned up in 60 residents and 23 staff.

Shah says health officials are investigating how the disease may have been brought into the facility and other long-term care settings experiencing outbreaks.

“But we haven’t, in any of the Maine outbreaks, identified a specific person who may have worked multiple facilities who transmitted or introduced the virus in any specific instance,” Shah said.

Research on long-term care outbreaks shows that the rotation of staff between multiple long-term care facilities is a risk for spreading COVID-19.

Shah says that’s true in Maine, but he also says limiting the spread outside of nursing homes can help mitigate transmission within the facilities themselves.

In addition, he said that seven workers at the state's emergency operations center who fell ill last week have tested negative for other respiratory diseases and have recovered. They earlier tested negative for COVID-19. Shah said the investigation into those cases is ongoing, as is cleaning at the emergency operations center.

Of the total infected with COVID-19 in Maine, 1,646 have recovered, 60 more than yesterday. A total of 287 have had to be hospitalized. Forty-eight remain in the hospital, 16 of them in intensive care. Of those, 10 are on ventilators.

Shah urged demonstrators gathering at ongoing protests across Maine against the death of George Floyd wear masks and try to follow good health practices. Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, who joined Shah at Tuesday's briefing, agreed, saying demonstrators should wear masks and follow safety guidelines as much as possible. 

Lambrew says DHHS is launching a public awareness campaign designed to remind the public about safety practices that limit the spread of COVID-19.

The campaign will focus on the same steps that have helped keep Maine in the lower tier of the country in terms of deaths and positive cases.

They include physical distancing, wearing of cloth face coverings and hand washing.

“Those are the keys to keeping Maine safe and we thank everybody for following it to date and for continuing to be vigilant as we enter these new phases,” Lambrew said.

The campaign will include digital and social media ads that will begin appearing this week, a website with printable guidelines and television ads that will air in the middle of the month.

It comes as the second phase of the Mills administration economic restart plan gets underway.

The third phase is tentatively planned to begin July 1.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. June 2, 2020.

Maine Public reporter Steve Mistler contributed to this story.

Originally published June 2, 2020 at 12:01 p.m.