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Health

Another Mainer With COVID-19 Dies As The State's Caseload Grows By 40

Maine is reporting another death and an increase of 40 in COVID-19 cases overnight. That brings the total number of cases since the pandemic's onset to 5,431, and the death toll to 142.That's according Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah, who said at a briefing Thursday that the person who died was a man in his 50s from York County, where about a third of the state's additional cases arose.

Shah said 40% of all cases logged in Maine in the last two weeks are from York County, where about 15% of Maine's population resides. He said health investigators are looking into 17 outbreaks there.

But Shah said of the 488 COVID-19 cases found in Maine in the past two weeks, some have been diagnosed in all 16 Maine counties. He said 9% of the cumulative total of cases logged in the state since the pandemic's onset have occurred in just the past two weeks.

He said the average age of those infected has also dropped in recent months to 40, compared with an average age of 51 earlier on in the pandemic.

Another troubling trend, Shah said, is that 412 of the 488 cases diagnosed in the past two weeks are not associated with any known outbreaks, indicating that the disease is "spreading in every part of Maine, person to person, family to family," Shah said.

In the last 14 days, he said, "eight new cases have been diagnosed in Lincoln County, five in Penobscot County, two each in Somerset and Waldo counties, two in Aroostook County, and 1 case each in Hancock, Pisataquis and Washington counties. Where previsouly there have been few cases in those counties we are now seeing an uptick."

Shah said an epidemiological investigation is underway in the Washington County town of Baileyville after seven cases were found at the Woodland Pulp facility as a result of expanded testing.

Shah acknowledged that some of the increase in positive COVID-19 tests is due to efforts to do more testing. Shah said state officials expected to find more cases as a result. "What this tells us is what we expected all along — that the virus is in every part of the state."

Shah said the state continues to investigate several outbreaks, including 18 cases at Sanford High School, eight cases at Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro, another 13 cases at the Pinnacle Rehab facility in Sanford, and 24 cases at ND Paper in Rumford.

Meanwhile, Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the state is providing another $1 million in federal pandemic relief funds to help non-nursing home congregate care facilities review and improve their COVID-19 safety procedures to reduce the risk of the virus' spread.

Shah and Lambrew urged people to get flu shots, something Shah said he himself did Wednesday. He said both COVID-19 and the flu "can be deadly, and there's a possibility we could be grappling with both."

But Shah said Maine's 7-day weighted average positivity rate for COVID-19 remains relatively low at 0.49%, compared with a national rate of 5%.

Meanwhile overnight, another 26 Mainers recovered from the virus, bringing total recoveries to 4,704.  That leaves 585 active cases that the state is tracking.

The number of people hospitalized at some point during their illness rose by two overnight to 451. Twelve people are currently hospitalized, two of them in intensive care. One person is on a ventilator.

The next Maine CDC coronavirus briefing is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6.