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Health

As COVID-19 Deaths And Cases Rise, Maine Opens 2 New Outbreak Investigations In York County

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Nick Woodward
/
Maine Public
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah at a coronavirus briefing March 26, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Another Mainer with COVID-19 has died, as the number of cases the state has logged since the pandemic's onset grew by 37 overnight, to 5,337.  The death tally now stands at 141.That's according to new figures the Maine Center for Disease Control posted Tuesday. At a briefing Tuesday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the person who died was a woman in her 80's from York County.

Shah said the new death in Maine comes just as the total number of COVID-19 deaths across the globe reached a new milestone of 1 million. In the U.S., Shah noted, the death toll has surpassed 200,000.

"Think of the impact of so many dead in so short a time," he said, pausing the briefing "to remember all of those no longer with us."

More than half the new cases added Tuesday to Maine's COVID-19 tally originated in York County, where the state is already following more than a dozen outbreaks, including one at the York County Jail in Alfred, and another at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Shah said another outbreak at Sanford High School has now expanded to 18 cases. About 900 test samples were collected on Friday and Saturday at a special facility set up at the school, Shah said. Of those, three tested positive. 

He said another nine cases at Pinnacle Health and Rehab in Sanford are under investigation, as are two new outbreaks, one at Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro, where four cases have been detected, and another 11 cases at the Little Lambs Learning Center in Springvale.

At Massabesic, Shah said, testing is being arranged for close contacts of those who tested positive. Little Lambs closed in mid-September, he said, and state health officials are working with the facility to provide testing for all staff, parents and students.

Farther north in Oxford County, an outbreak at ND Paper in Rumford has now expanded to 23 cases, Shah said. Shah said another round of testing there found no additional cases, but he said not all of the 600-700 test results have been validated.

Shah said the feds are sending Maine 26,000 "binaxnow" testing kits made by Maine-based Abbott Labs, as part of a nationwide distribution of tests.  The tests provide quick results, and Shah said the antigen-based tests are lightweight and can be used in different settings, and additional allocations of them are expected.

"No final decisions have been made as to who the initial recipients of these tests will be. That being said, the federal government and the U.S. CDC have recommended that one of the principal use cases be in and among schools," he said.

The Abbott tests, he said, "represent a welcome addition to the types of tests already available in Maine."

Despite concern about the spread of COVID-19 in York County, Shah said Maine's positivity rate for the virus remains relatively low at 0.48%, compared with a national rate of 5%.

Meanwhile, another 30 recoveries from the virus were logged overnight, Shah said, bringing the total number of recoveries tallied so far to 4,629. That leaves 567 cases that the state is currently tracking, six more than Monday.

The number of Mainers with COVID-19 who have been hospitalized at some point rose overnight by one to 447. Eight people are currently hospitalized, five of them in intensive care, Shah said. One person is on a ventilator.

Originally published at 9:55 a.m. Sept. 29, 2020.

Updated at 4:58 p.m. Sept. 29, 2020.