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Maine CDC Reports 20 New Cases Of COVID-19, But New Outbreaks Could Push Numbers Higher

Robert F. Bukaty
AP Images
Kevin Norsworthy, State Theater's "marquee master," puts a new message outside the venue, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in Portland, Maine.

The Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) Thursday reported an additional 20 cases of COVID-19, making 3,598 total cases in the state so far.

No new deaths were reported, and the number of fatalities associated with COVID-19 still stands at 114. But at a media briefing Thursday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah announced three new outbreaks.

Among them, he said is an outbreak of 11 cases at the American Roots manufacturing facility in Westbrook. Shah said those 11 cases are not reflected in Thursday's numbers because they became known after the totals were updated. He said they will show up in Friday's numbers. 

Shah said the state is working with the facility to conduct universal testing, one round of which has already been completed and another of which is planned for next Tuesday.  Shah says his agency is investigating whether individuals contracted the disease at the work site, "or whether they have had external outside contact.  that's the single most important question in any outbreak." All production at the facility has been temporarily halted for cleaning and further investigation into the source of the outbreak, Shah said.

Another three cases have turned up among staff at Corsetti's Restaurant in Westbrook, which is being closed for 14 days. Shah said the CDC has recommended all employees get tested. He said three more cases were also diagnosed among staff at the Goodwill distribution warehouse in Gorham, which has also been closed while cleaning is done and health officials investigate.

Serial rounds of retesting are also being done in connection with a known outbreak at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, Shah said, where the state is looking into infection control practices at the facility to try to keep the virus out.

Shah said compared with many other states, Maine is doing well. But he said that could quickly change. "The people of Maine, all of us, have done an exemplery job of keeping the lid on COVID, but that could change if we let our guard down," Shah said.

"Wild fires are raging," he said, referring to states where COVID-19 cases are surging. "What's happening in other parts of the county could happen here" if Mainers stop following health and safety guidelines. He said the state's 7-day weighted average positivity rate for COVID-19 is 1.0%. He said that compares with positivity rates in some hard-hit states of 20% or more.

Shah also addressed new data reporting requirements the federal government announced Tuesday, saying that for Maine hospital administrators the new rules "present a challenge." Shah said the feds created and rolled out the plan in 24 hours, leaving hospitals scrambling. He said the Maine CDC "has one goal in this situation - to support Maine hospitals. Our job is to make this work."

Shah said the federal changes "won't affect the manner or degree of how Maine reports data." He said the agency will continue to report the state's daily totals, hospital capacity, and other information on the CDC's website.

As of Thursday, 3,094 Mainers have recovered from COVID-19, leaving a toal of 390 active cases. Currently, 13 Maine people with COVID-19 are hospitalized, and four of them are on ventilators. 

Earlier this week, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew announced that Maine is partnering with health care organizations in the state to open new COVID-19 "swab and send" test collection sites. Officials say these new sites will help to expedite the testing process for high-risk groups.