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Health

'No Outbreak Is An Island' - Maine CDC Reports 50 Additional Cases Of COVID-19

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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, March 12, 2020.

The Maine Center for Disease Control Thursday is reporting a net increase of 50 cases of COVID-19 overnight, bringing the total since the pandemic hit the state to 4,617. No new deaths were reported Thursday. That number remains at 133.Fifty-three new cases were reported Thursday, but some previously reported cases were reclassified, resulting in a net increase of 50, said Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah at a briefing Thursday. There are now 496 active cases of COVID-19 in the state. 

Shah said 18 of the 50 cases reported Thursday were in York County.

"York County, in particular, remains a focus and an area of concern from all of us at the Maine CDC," Shah said.

He cited two outbreaks in the area, one at the facility in Alfred that houses the York County Jail and another at the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford. 

Shah said 29 cases have been diagnosed in the county in the past two days, in addition to 13 cases with no known links to any outbreak, indicating that community transmission is occurring.

"I am concerned that if we do not get a grip on what is going on in York County, it has the potential to spiral" and affect other parts of the state, Shah said.

Shah said 72 cases are now associated with an outbreak at the York County Jail, an outbreak he said originated with a staff member who had attended a wedding event in Millinocket August 7, which is now linked to 144 cases and two deaths. Shah said 46 of the cases at the jail are among inmates, and seven among family members of staff.

The Maine CDC is also investigating an outbreak at the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, where cases doubled from five Wednesday to 10 Thursday. Whether that outbreak is related to the Millinocket wedding event remains under investigation.

He said the pastor of the church, Todd Bell, is cooperating with CDC officials, who have offered guidance on health and safety measures, including face coverings and social distancing.

"When the Maine CDC offers guidance, we expect them to comply," Shah said, when asked how the state could enforce those guidelines. 

Shah said the CDC has also established a connection between the Millinocket wedding and another outbreak of 16 COVID-19 cases at the Maplecrest Rehab facility in Madison that's linked to a Maplecrest staff member who attended the event.

"One of the things we’ve learned in last few months is no outbreak is an island," Shah said. "One outbreak can quickly lead to several more outbreaks.” 

Asked to respond to the federal CDC's notification to states to prepare for a vaccine by November 1, Shah said Maine has been planning for the arrival of a vaccine — any vaccine — since April. He said the state has been focused on being prepared to receive "massive amounts" of vaccine and to distribute it quickly and efficiently to providers. 

He said any effort to rush a vaccine out on an abbreviated schedule without sufficient trials "would raise concerns."

Updated at 3:41 p.m. September 3, 2020.