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Maine CDC To Set Up COVID-19 Testing Site As Virus Spreads In York County

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah at a State House news conference March 20, 2020.

Maine's tally of COVID-19 cases logged since the pandemic's onset rose overnight to 5,215, an increase of 44. The death toll remained unchanged at 140.That's according to the Maine Center for Disease Control, which posted new figures on its website Thursday.  They indicate that about 44% of the additional cases are in York County.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the state is investigating a new outbreak of three cases at Brink Chiropractic Clinic in the York County town of Sanford, where several other outbreak investigations are ongoing.

Among them, Shah said, is one involving 12 cases at the facility that houses Sanford High School and its associated technical school. Shah said the state is setting up a testing site there for students, faculty and staff.

"Achieving a high rate of COVID-19 testing among students, faculty and staff will be a critical way for public health officials to determine how COVID-19 may have spread at the school," Shah said.

There are also cases under investigation at some social clubs and a church in Sanford, the York County Jail facility in Alfred, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, and elsewhere.

Shah said that at this point, most of the cases in the area are being driven by community transmission.

"So even casual interactions, small interactions, can spread the virus. Maybe not one person to 20, but maybe one person to two other people, who then are seeding it and spreading it elsewhere."

Shah said an outbreak at ND Paper in the Oxford County town of Rumford has now grown to 23 cases, an increase of two since Wednesday.  He said about 700 people at the facility have been tested, and approximately the same number are now being tested in an effort to determine whether the virus is spreading at the mill itself, or via the outside contacts of people who work there.

Another trend the state is following, Shah said, is the changing demographics of the virus. Early in the pandemic, he said, cases were increasing faster among older people, "but as summer went on, that dynamic shifted," he said, and those aged 20-30 years old account for one-third of Maine's cases, while cases among 50 and 60 year olds comprise 28%.

Maine's 7-day positivity rate remains low, at .60%. That compares with a national rate of 5%, Shah said.   

Another 33 recoveries from the virus were logged overnight, Shah said, bringing the total to 4,478. That leaves 597 active cases, an increase of 11 since Wednesday.

Four-hundred-forty-two Mainers infected with the virus have had to be hospitalized at some point during their illness.  Fourteen people are currently hospitalized, one of them in intensive care. No COVID-19 patients are on ventilators.

The next Maine CDC briefing is scheduled for 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29.

Patty Wight contributed to this story.

Updated at 4:11 p.m. Sept. 24, 2020.

Updated 4:49 p.m: a previous headline erroneously stated that the testing site would be at Sanford High School, but the CDC has not said where the site will be.

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.