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Maine's COVID-19 Death Toll Hits 100, As CDC Investigates 5 New Outbreaks

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah speaks at a news conference at the State House, in Augusta, Maine, March 12, 2020.

Maine Center for Disease Control director Dr. Nirav Shah says the public has been largely compliant with the numerous rules and guidelines designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, but he says fatigue and complacency remain a risk.

“I think that’s a concern. We have to recognize the limits of human psychology,” he says. “And there are only so many twists and turns and requirements that folks can abide. And we recognize that.”

Shah’s comments come the day after the state offered an alternative to its 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state visitors amid almost weekly changes to the Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to restart the Maine economy.

The governor’s phased plan has created different rules for people living in different parts of the state, creating questions and confusion for many residents.

More changes are forthcoming as the next phase of the governor’s plan is tentatively set to kick in July 1.

Shah says those changes are designed for a slow return to normalcy while recognizing that the COVID-19 threat remains.

Shah’s remarks come as Maine diagnoses another 18 cases of COVID-19 overnight, for total of 2,606 cases since the pandemic’s onset. Meanwhile, Maine’s death toll from the disease rose by one to 100, and the state is tracking five new outbreaks.

At a briefing Tuesday in Augusta, Shah says the latest person to die was a woman in her 90s from Cumberland County.

“Today, we mark the passing of the 100th individual from COVID-19” since the virus first appeared in Maine, Shah says.

Meanwhile, Shah says, the state is now investigating five new outbreaks, three in health care facilities and two in work settings.

One of the work settings is Abbott Labs in Scarborough, which manufactures tests for the disease.

Shah says the company of 600 employees has been testing workers weekly since the beginning of the pandemic and has reported 23 cumulative cases since then.

“But occasional cases had been detected. What we saw in our data was an uptick just in the past few days, which meets our threshold for when we’ve detected an outbreak,” Shah says.

Shah says five cases have been confirmed since May 31, which is just above the three-case threshold to qualify as an outbreak.

He says the company has taken steps to make sure its testing equipment has not been contaminated.

The Maine CDC testing program uses some Abbott Labs testing, but much of its recent testing expansion has been through a partnership with IDEXX.

The other workplace outbreak is at Nichols in Portland, which makes metal parts. Shah says seven cases have been associated with that factory.

The three health care facilities with outbreaks include Montello Manor in Lewiston, with three cases, Serenity Residential Care in Gorham, with five cases, and Support Solutions in Lewiston/Auburn, with four cases.

Nonetheless, Shah says tests done over the last 24 hours put Maine’s “positivity rate” - how many of the COVID-19 tests that have been done which have come back positive - at 2.78%. The cumulative rate since the pandemic began stands at 4.73%. “The trend is in our favor, the wind at our backs,” Shah says.

And Shah says since Monday another 101 people have recovered from the disease, for a total of 1,992 recoveries. That leaves 514 active cases.

A cumulative total of 302 have been hospitalized, he says. Twenty-nine patients remain hospitalized, 10 are in critical care and seven are on ventilators. A total of 639 of Maine’s cases have been among health care workers, Shah says.

Updated June 9, 2020 at 4:24 p.m. ET.

Maine Public digital producer Barbara Cariddi contributed to this report.

Barbara grew up in Biddeford, Maine. She earned a master’s in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s in English from the University of Southern Maine.