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Maine's Positivity Rate Rises Above 1% As CDC Reports 1 New Death, 84 More COVID-19 Cases On Monday

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Workers at Reed and Reed Construction wear masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus while attending at campaign stop by Republican Sen. Susan Collins, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Woolwich, Maine.

For the first time since late July, Maine’s positivity rate for COVID-19 has risen above 1%.

New daily cases remain high, with the state CDC reporting 84 on Monday. The agency is also reporting an additional death: a woman in her 80s from Androscoggin County.

During a news briefing on Monday, Gov. Janet Mills said Mainers need to take personal responsibility and maintain safety protocols to return the state to a better position.

“We can stem the tide of this virus, but it will take a team effort on the part of every Maine person,” she said.

Mills said that means wearing masks in public, both indoors and outdoors, and avoiding large gatherings.

The Maine CDC has opened several new outbreak investigations. At the Midcoast Athletics Center in Warren, there are five confirmed cases thought to be related to kids’ basketball. At the Sandy River Center nursing home in Farmington, there are seven cases. And at the Deeper Life Assembly Church in Pittsfield, 11 people have tested positive.

CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said he’s noticed a concerning trend among houses of worship that face masks are not required.

“No matter where you may be gathering, where there are folks there who are going to be there in close proximity for more than 15 minutes, that is an opportunity to make sure that everybody is wearing a face covering. That collectively reduces the likelihood of any transmission,” he said.

Meanwhile, case numbers connected to existing outbreaks have grown. There are now 22 cases linked to Pat’s Pizza in Portland’s Old Port. At the Durgin Pines nursing home in Kittery, there are now 9 cases, and at Woodlands Memory Care Rockland, 18 people have tested positive. At both nursing homes, the vast majority of cases are among residents.

Shah said the state’s rising case numbers are putting increased demand on contact tracers.

He said that the agency’s goal is for case investigators to get in touch with people the same day they receive a positive result. The same is true for contact tracers, who aim to get in touch with close contacts the same day they’re given their name. But Shah said those goals may need to be relaxed to 24 hours given the surge in daily case numbers.

“I don’t know that any of us realized how quickly we would go from 20 or 30 or 40 cases to 80 or 90 or 100 cases. So that’s what we’re adjusting to right now,” he said.

Shah said the CDC is working to hire more contract tracers and case investigators. In the meantime, the agency is redeploying staff and continuing to work with volunteers.