CDC reports increase in number of coronavirus cases

ELLSWORTH — The number of coronavirus cases in Maine jumped substantially overnight.

At a news conference in Augusta Monday morning, March 16, Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Centers for Disease Control, said the number of confirmed positive and presumptive positive cases had risen from 12 to 17 since the last update, given at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

“Consistent with the trends we’ve seen in other parts of New England and the Northeast, we do expect the number of these cases to increase,” Shah said.

Five of the original 12 cases were considered presumptive positives Sunday night and one of those had been confirmed as of Monday morning. Shah said a presumptive positive means the test was conducted at an outside laboratory and had not yet been confirmed by the state’s lab.

The original 12 cases include a woman in her 50s in Androscoggin County, a woman in her 30s in Lincoln County and 10 people in Cumberland County, ranging from a boy in his teens to a man in his 80s. Two of them have been hospitalized.

Now, the state is dealing with another five presumptive positive tests. Among the latest cases is a man in his 30s in Knox County and a man in his 40s in Lincoln County. The remainder are in Cumberland County.

“We are continuing to see evidence of community transmission in and around Cumberland County,” Shah said. “And, consistent with the trend we’ve seen in other parts of the northeast and New England, we anticipate community transmission being detected across  other counties in Maine in the near future.”

In addition to the positive and presumed positive cases, approximately 100 people have been quarantined on the advice of Maine CDC.

“That number fluctuates very quickly, on an almost hour-by-hour basis,” he said.

Additional people, especially health care workers, may be quarantined on the advice of their employers, for whom the Maine CDC provides guidance. Those employers are not required to report the numbers of quarantined employees to the CDC, however.

As of Monday morning, Shah said, the state lab, two commercial labs and a lab affiliated with Maine Health had conducted a total of 764 tests which came back negative.

In order to protect health care professionals and first responders, the Maine CDC on Thursday began distributing personal protective equipment that it had on hand, including approximately 5,795 masks, 1,000 face shields, 15,000 gloves and 6,300 disposable protective suits, which are worn when treating or testing someone with suspected coronavirus.

“Just today, in cooperation with the [Maine Department of Transportation], we are making deliveries to 60 facilities across the state. And we hope to continue that in the coming days,” Shah said.

In addition, Shah said, the federal government has approved Maine’s request for equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile. Officials are anticipating delivery of additional gowns, face masks, face shields and gloves within a week. Equipment previously ordered from national suppliers is also expected to be delivered soon.

He urged Mainers to follow recommendations made by Governor Janet Mills Sunday night, which include canceling gatherings of 50 or more people and postponing elective surgeries in order to leave medical practitioners free to handle the coronavirus outbreak. He also advises taking care to eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, spend time with loved ones and not to forget kindness, especially when  considering the people behind the cases.

“Behind all of these numbers is a person, someone’s spouse, someone’s brother, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter,” Shah said. “We must not suspend our kindness or caring of one another.”

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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