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Health

For The First Time, Maine Releases COVID-19 Data By Zip Code

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Robert F. Bukaty
/
Associated Press
People in masks walk by shops that cater to tourists in Camden, Maine, Thursday, May 28, 2020.

The Maine Center for Disease Control has released COVID-19 case data by zip code for the first time since the outbreak began in March, making it the last state in New England to do so. The release follows pressure from state media outlets which sought more granular data than the county-level case counts that the Maine CDC had provided for more than three months. CDC officials were reluctant to release the town-level data, citing low case counts that could reveal the identities of people who had contracted the disease.

The data show roughly 34 percent of Maine’s more than 400 zip codes with no cases and 9 percent with 40 or more cases.

The zip code data don't represent active cases, only the cumulative number of cases the CDC has confirmed since the outbreak.

Additionally, the CDC is suppressing case counts in zip codes with fewer than 50 people, with five or fewer cases and in zip codes where county-level cases are low enough that a person could be identified.

All told, 55 of Maine’s zip codes are detailed in the newly released data. Overall, it shows higher case counts in zip codes with higher population density and where community transmission of COVID-19 has been confirmed by the Maine CDC.

Three zip codes in Portland show a total of 456 cases, although that number may represent cases in all of the city’s zip codes, according to the CDC.

Lewiston and Auburn show 203 and 81 cases, respectively, while Westbrook has 153 cases.

Portland suburbs also show higher case counts, although some of those are likely driven by deadly outbreaks in long-term care facilities and congregate settings. Among the latter are Cape Elizabeth (78 cases), Falmouth (101 cases) and Scarborough (85 cases)

While the data show rural towns with lower case counts, several towns have experienced higher case counts relative to their overall population.  Medway, with a population of 1,457, has had 12 cases, which is double that of Phillips, a town with a similar number of residents.

The data were made available Wednesday evening. Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah has previously cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from town-level data and warned people to not let their guard down if their town or county shows few cases.

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” he has said.

As of Thursday, the Maine CDC is reporting 28 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the cumulative total to 2,446. Of those, 612 cases are active.

Ninety-five Maine residents with COVID-19 have died since the outbreak began in March.