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What's Driving Maine's Nation-Leading COVID-19 Case Growth? Dr. Shah Points To Decline In Southern States

Nick Woodward
Maine Public
Dr. Nirav Shah at a press conference in 2020.

According to the New York Times COVID tracker, Maine has the fastest rate of case growth in the country.

The director of the Maine CDC, Dr. Nirav Shah, says that's likely due in part to both the virus spreading north and a decline in case rates in southern states that were previously at the top of the list.

Shah says there's also a sizable number of people in Maine who have not been infected with COVID-19 at all.

"That's one reason why variants like delta have moved even more quickly through places like the Northeast, particularly Maine, because, even though vaccination rates were high, there was still a sizable number of people who had never been exposed, and thus had no immunity whatsoever," he says.

Despite the high rate of growth of COVID-19 in Maine, the overall case rate remains low compared to other states. That growth, however, means some Mainers are facing longer drives to get tested for COVID-19 as well as longer waits for results.

Shah says his agency is working to expand testing, but it's a problem across the U.S. that won't let up anytime soon amid the surge of the delta variant.

"For the foreseeable future, we anticipate there will be significant demand for testing," he says.

As more people get tested, the state CDC is working through a backlog of lab results. Shah says more than 2,000 positive lab results are currently awaiting CDC review.