AUGUSTA — The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Maine rose to 107 on Monday, an increase of 18 since Sunday.
Twelve patients were hospitalized and the state has conducted 2,791 tests, according to a briefing by Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Shah urged patience and said the state is aware of delays in getting test results and the difficulty in having tests conducted more widely.
“It’s concerning, it’s anxiety-inducing and it’s frustrating,” said Shah of the delays. “We’re working on solving it, at least making inroads as quickly as possible.”
Testing delays have resulted in part because of the availability of a certain chemical used to conduct the test. A shortage of the chemical is “one of the major bottlenecks with testing across the country,” said Shah, who said the manufacturer of the chemical has been urged to speed up production. But state officials are also looking into purchasing “a different type of equipment that uses a different type of chemical for which, right now, there is not a shortage.”
Commercial laboratories across the country are also upping their availability and capacity for testing, said Shah, who urged the public to “bear with us.”
Testing is still focused on the “highest risk groups” said Shah, including those who are hospitalized and health care workers, so they can continue treating patients.
As for the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Shah said state health officials are working with the Maine Department of Transportation to distribute nearly 22,000 sets of PPE to health-care providers and facilities around the state, including 2,500 N95 masks, more than 8,000 surgical masks, 1,800 face shields and 6,000 gloves.
Shah said the state also expects to receive an additional shipment today from the national stockpile that includes 12,800 N95 masks, more than 30,000 surgical masks, 5,800 face shields, 4,700 surgical gowns and 16,800 gloves.
But, he noted, “The amount of PPE that we need does not match, yet, what we have been receiving.”
Governor Janet Mills recently sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, said Shah, urging the government to increase distribution of the equipment to the states.
“Live your life as if COVID-19 is already in your community,” said Shah. “When it comes to outbreaks, we are often, in any outbreak situation, just detecting the tip of the iceberg at any one time.”