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Maine CDC Calls COVID-19 Surge In Nearby States 'A Storm On The Horizon'

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Jenzy Guzman wears a mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus while loading his truck while making deliveries to restaurants in the Old Port, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Portland, Maine.

The Maine Center for Disease Control says the state’s seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19 has hit a new low, at 0.42 percent. Other metrics show positive signs — Maine conducts 50 percent more testing than the national average, and the average number of new daily cases over the past two weeks has held steady at around 30.

But that’s not the case in nearby states, which public health officials say should serve as a warning. In the past two weeks, the average number of new daily cases in New Hampshire and Connecticut has doubled. In Rhode Island, cases have increased by 70 percent. And in Massachusetts, they’ve grown by 25 percent.

In a news briefing on Thursday, the director of the Maine CDC, Dr. Nirav Shah, called the uptick in cases in Northeast states “a storm on the horizon.” He says they appear to be driven by small indoor gatherings, and he’s urging Mainers to wear face masks indoors if friends and family outside of your pandemic bubble visit.

“And speaking of bubbles. I know that’s something that a lot of families have practiced over the summer. But as more folks are interacting in different ways, we’ve got to make sure that those discreet bubbles that we have don’t turn into one big dome that allows for transmission to occur from family to family to family,” he says.

Shah says these precautions are the first step to preventing a surge in Maine. At this time, the Mills administration has not decided to remove any states from the list that exempts individuals who visit Maine from quarantine and testing requirements.

At the news briefing, Shah also said an outbreak of COVID-19 at Freeport-based L.L.Bean has grown to 17 cases. At Pinnacle Health and Rehab in Canton, there are now 24 cases. And the agency is investigating a new outbreak at the Summer Commons construction site in Sanford.

“We are aware of four Maine residents associated with this outbreak, and perhaps three residents from New Hampshire,” he says.

The investigation comes as the CDC reports one new death and 20 cases of COVID-19 in the state. That brings the total death toll to 144 and the total number of Mainers diagnosed with the disease to 5,836.

Shah says about a third of the new cases are in Kennebec County, 17 percent are in York County, and Cumberland and Androscoggin counties each account for about 14 percent.

The total number of active cases in the state is 622.