ELLSWORTH — The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hancock County rose to 11 this week, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a case rate of 2 per 10,000 residents, the fourth lowest in the state.
Cumberland County had the highest case rate, at 29.4 confirmed cases per 10,000 residents. Nine Hancock County residents were listed as having recovered, while one had been hospitalized at some point and one, a man in his 60s, had passed away.
Statewide, there were 1,741 cases as of Wednesday morning, 73 residents who had tested positive had passed away and 225 had been hospitalized at some point during their illness. There were 580 active cases statewide as of Wednesday morning, up from the 499 active cases at this time last week.
On Tuesday, the Mills administration announced that gyms, fitness centers and nail salons, initially set for reopening on June 1, would have to wait longer to become fully operational after a recent study linked 112 cases in South Korea to dance fitness instructors who all attended a single workshop and then infected others in their classes.
“This is a respiratory virus — it’s a virus that comes out of your lungs and gets transmitted through the air,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC. “And when you’ve got other people around you who are exercising and, thus, taking deep breaths in, it’s postulated that the possibility of transmission is greater.”
Fitness centers are still allowed to offer smaller outdoor classes and one-on-one personal training sessions.
While residents may have to wait longer to go to the weight room, Mainers (and those who have observed the state’s 14-day quarantine) will be able to go camping a bit sooner than expected. The Mills administration announced this week that private campgrounds and RV parks will be able to open for Maine residents in time for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
“We believe allowing private campgrounds to open with strict health and safety precautions to Maine residents minimizes risks while supporting mental and physical health, particularly during the long Memorial Day weekend,” said Governor Janet Mills in a statement.
“We also believe that it is appropriate to delay the reopening of gyms and nail salons, both of which appear to present a greater risk of transmission of the virus based on emerging science and the experiences of other states. It is important that the plan remain flexible and that we take steps to update it when necessary in order to both protect public health and support our economy.”
Campgrounds had previously been scheduled to reopen no sooner than June 1 but worked with the state to develop safety plans as part of the accelerated reopening. Those include limiting campsites to a single household, prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people, closing playgrounds and swimming pools and stepped-up cleaning.
Campgrounds within Maine’s state parks will remain closed until June 1, as previously scheduled.
The changes to the plans come after Mills announced that the state would greatly expand its testing capacity to include anyone suspected of having COVID-19. The state had been limiting testing to high-priority patients, such as health-care workers and hospital inpatients.
The change stems primarily from the administration’s agreement with IDEXX Laboratories to purchase enough kits to run at least 5,000 tests per week for the foreseeable future. Taken in combination with Maine CDC’s prior capacity of 2,000 tests per week and additional work to expand testing capacity, the partnership with IDEXX more than triples the state’s testing capacity, according to a press release.