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Maine CDC Reports 76 Additional COVID-19 Cases, One Of The State's Highest One-Day Increases

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
A statue of literary great Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wears a mask in Portland, Maine, Monday, May 18, 2020.

The Mills administration on Wednesday put out a clarion call to Mainers in a special briefing on the recent surge of coronavirus cases. Officials are urging the public to remain vigilant about safety protocols.

Since Sunday, 250 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to the state, and the number of new cases on Wednesday alone hit 76. That’s one of the largest daily spikes the state has seen since the start of the pandemic.

The positivity rate is also increasing, currently at 0.75 percent, and hospitalizations have more than doubled over the past week, from seven to 16.

The number of active cases across the state has reached 800. Deaths are unchanged, at 146.

Maine’s director of the CDC, Dr. Nirav Shah, says the state is seeing sustained, increasing levels of transmission that could quickly turn into exponential growth.

“The 70 or so cases that we’re seeing today could, in a few days, turn into about 140 cases per day every day. And then a few days after that, turn into 300 cases per day for a few days, and so on and so forth,” he says.

The CDC is investigating several outbreaks. Twenty-seven cases are linked to a service at the Second Baptist Church in Calais. An outbreak at Woodlands Memory Care in Rockland has grown to 10 residents and two staff. And an outbreak in Waldo County that started at the Brooks Pentecostal Church remains at 60 cases.

Despite these outbreaks, Shah says the bulk of the new cases in Maine are being driven by community transmission. Specifically, small household gatherings that people may not view as risky.

“There’s not a safer place in the house than the kitchen table. But as folks are moving inside, I think folks are letting their guard down because the home is now being a source of risk as gatherings are moving indoors,” he says.

State officials stress that the virus is everywhere and is infecting all ages. New cases were recorded in 14 of Maine’s 16 counties Wednesday — the two without were Piscataquis and Sagadahoc. The age range of those cases span from eight months to 94 years old.

Gov. Janet Mills says Mainers need to do more to tamp out the virus.

“We know what we need to do to get this virus under control so that we can keep our businesses open and keep our kids in school,” she says.

At this point, that doesn’t include new restrictions on businesses or gatherings. Mills says people should embrace a civic duty to protect themselves and others.

“If we do not maintain physical distancing, wear face coverings both in private settings and public places, if we do not avoid large gatherings and wash our hands frequently, we will not be able to manage this virus,” she says.

Maine has been a leader in controlling the spread of the coronavirus, Mills says, as its case rates and positivity rates have been among the lowest in the nation. But that success, she says, could easily slip away.

Correction: 76 cases is not the largest daily spike Maine has seen — 78 cases were reported May 19.