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COVID-19 Nov. 23 Update: As Maine tops 10K total cases, November is poised to finish adding over 5,000 new ones Featured

November 12, 2020
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(EDITOR'S NOTE: For reporting purposes, case counts are actually tabulated the prior day and those tabulations are often adjusted up or down. This is due to Maine CDC investigators determining which actual new or current cases may not qualify to be classified as COVID-19 cases, especially when it comes to probable cases. Some days are actually adjusted upward as was the case for several days last week, while cases are more often revised downward upon subsequent investigations. Therefore, The Maine Edge uses adjusted net figures first when determining actual daily variances instead of the number of newly reported cases that may end up not qualifying or being adjusted. In the case of a prior day's figures being revised upward, both will be included since the prior day was underreported.)

DAILY UPDATE: Current information as of 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23 with CDC data as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

AUGUSTA - After a 400-plus rise over the weekend that saw total cases related to COVID-19 top the 10,000-mark on Saturday, another 186 new cases were reported on Monday to bring Maine's total case count to 10,544. While the increase on Sunday was the seventh day so far this month that new cases have exceeded 200, it was below the single-day record set Nov. 12 when 247 new cases were reported. In all, cases have risen by 4,136 - or nearly 65 percent - since Oct. 28, the day before triple-digit increases in new daily cases began according to the latest data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC).

Meanwhile, another death related to COVID-19 was reported Monday after three deaths were reported over the weekend, bringing Maine's death toll to 177 in total and 30 so far this month. The death reported Saturday was a man in his 70s from Cumberland County, while the two reported Sunday were a man in his 60s from Androscoggin County and another man in his 80s from Franklin County. The death reported Monday was man in his 50s from Lincoln County, representing the sixth death in that age range in Maine thus far. According to data from the Maine CDC, the one of the deaths actually occurred on Nov. 19, two on Nov. 20 and one on Nov. 21.

October ended up with five deaths for the month, marking the lowest death toll so far since the pandemic tracking began. March, which is when tracking started, is second-lowest at seven while the majority of the deaths that have occurred in Maine happened a month later in April when 51 people died from COVID-19. May is the second highest month so far at 37 deaths, although November is poised to match or surpass that figure. July had 18 deaths overall and both August and June saw 10 each. Despite an outbreak stemming from an August wedding in Millinocket that began spreading in the middle of that month, September ended with only nine.

When looking at monthly trends, the new COVID-19 cases reported over the weekend brought November's case count thus far to 3,888, putting the month at a record pace of over 5,000 new cases if the trend continues. To put that into perspective, November eclipsed October's then-record new case count of 1,290 in just nine days and the pace hasn't slowed since then with just 10 days still to go. June is third highest at 935 new cases, while September ran a close fourth at 860. To round out the rest of the months since the pandemic tracking began, April is fifth at 780, July is sixth at 649, August is seventh at 623 and March remains the lowest month with 342 total cases when tracking began.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, expressed continued concern during Monday's press briefing regarding the number who have been hospitalized the past two weeks and more so in the past week alone. Currently, 103 are in the hospital - up sharply by 86 from about a month ago when only 17 were hospitalized on Oct. 24 and the first time that figure has hit triple digits - and 45 are in ICUs with 11 on ventilators, according to the Maine CDC. Overall, current hospitalizations began increasing in October as cases ballooned, and Shah said that Maine's hospitalization rate is about 7.9 hospitalizations per 100,000 people. He added that while Maine is faring better when compared to the national average of about 13 per 100,000, 167 have been hospitalized in the past 30 days compared to 123 hospitalizations in a similar span as of last week.

And at least 77 new outbreaks across the state since November began haven't helped either. Shah announced new outbreak investigations at 14 locations on Nov. 16 that were initiated over that weekend. Over the course of last week, he added over 35 more to the list and on Monday, he said another 15 investigations began over this past weekend. That has forced state health officials to make the decision to change contact tracing methods to just one post-postive contact for newly confirmed cases instead of continual check-ins due to capacity constraints.

"Just in the last two weeks, we've increased the size of our contact tracing and case investigation force by 40 percent," he said. "But sadly in Maine and across the country, the virus is moving faster and spreading faster than the ability of states to train and deploy new public health investigators."

Cases in Penobscot County topped the 600-mark on Saturday and stood at 666 on Monday, more than doubling in total in the weeks since the triple-digit surge began when the county only had 300 cases. That kind of growth rate has not been seen since August when Shah tied outbreaks in both Penobscot and York counties to the Aug. 7 wedding reception held at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. In contrast, October only had 52 new cases while September only recorded 29. November has also eclipsed the 86 new cases reported in August due to the wedding outbreak where 178 individuals who tested positive across the state were linked to the wedding.

According to the zip code breakdown, which was updated on Nov. 18 with data as of Nov. 15 and usually lags current case count data by as much as a week, the Bangor/Hermon/Glenburn area rose sharply by 37 to 147 in the past week in one of the largest increases since tracking began. Old Town, which had the largest jump percentage-wise last week, added four new cases to bring that town's figure to 20. Brewer rose a little more substantially to 23, up six from last week. Other neighboring towns like Hampden rose by four to 31 and Carmel rose by two to 12, while Orono added five new cases to total 22. Due to the wedding outbreak, both Millinocket and East Millinocket joined the five or more-case tracking in August and have been relatively stable since then at 31 and 20 cases respectively, while Medway also held steady at 13. Percentage-wise, Orrington was one of the larger gains of the week in adding three new cases to bring that town to 11.

Joining the five or more tracking last week was Newport, which stood steady at 13 cases. Dexter also joined the list at nine but added three to total 12 this week, along with Corinna with 10, Milford at 11, Levant at seven and Lincoln at six. Joining the list this week are Corinth at seven and Kenduskeag and Charleston, each with six. Aside from those municipalities, all other zip codes in Penobscot County continue to report five or less to no cases in total.

Taking into account the seven deaths that have occurred in Penobscot County and the 459 cases that have since recovered, the county's net active or unresolved cases dropped for the first time in weeks to 200 on Monday, down from Sunday's record of 202 after days of successive increases as new cases have exceeded recoveries. In fact, that figure is still over six times the 33 active cases at the end of October. Last month, that figure averaged around 18 active cases before rising toward the end of the month as the surge began, while September averaged around 15 active cases. August ranged as high as 52 active cases calculated on Aug. 21 and as low as 19 on Aug. 13 before the Millinocket outbreak was discovered. In comparison, there were only seven cases at the beginning of July.

According to Shah, Penobscot County is one of four official "community transmission" counties in the state, meaning a certain ratio of disease transmission is happening from sources that cannot be contact traced. However, he inferred last week that those designations were irrelevant as community transmission is now occurring all over the state. While Penobscot County hasn't had nearly the amount of cases since the pandemic began as Maine's other three originally designated community transmission counties of Cumberland, York and Androscoggin, the county did see its share of growth since August due to the wedding outbreak. It was then when Penobscot moved to fourth place and overtook Kennebec County, which itself had suffered several major outbreaks early in the pandemic including the Augusta Center for Rehabilitation where 77 people came down with COVID-19 and eight died.

However, a recent uptick in new cases in Cumberland, York, Kennebec and more recently Waldo, Knox, Somerset and Washington counties have state health officials concerned and Shah said previously that the former three counties have been contributing more than half of all new cases due to new outbreaks (see below), while Waldo has been significantly higher due to the outbreak at the Brooks Pentecostal Church and its related parish school. Still, Kennebec County moved back to fourth place on Oct. 14 and cases rose by over 60 percent last month. The county topped the 600-mark Nov. 16 and is now nearing the 700-mark on Monday with 696 cases.

York County continues to be a hot spot as well. With only 15 percent of the state's population, the county has experienced nearly 1,400 new cases since Aug. 15 when the Millinocket wedding outbreak began, almost tripling its already-high case count in that time from the 689 recorded then. While many of the cases then and in the weeks after were linked to the wedding, York has continued contributing about 20 percent of all new cases the past few months on average - Shah said that figure on Monday was actually 26 percent, and the county has typically had about half of all the current outbreaks occurring there.

In addition to York County, the outbreak at the church in Brooks - Shah said Friday that the outbreak is now closed - led Waldo County to more than double its case count to 213 from the 80 recorded when the outbreak was discovered on Oct. 11. Similarly, Washington County has added 158 new cases - more seven times its total - since Oct. 17 when it only had 20 cases. Knox County has added 136 cases, more than tripling its total in the weeks since Oct. 23 when it only had 58. And Somerset County, previously a low contributor to total cases, has more than quadrupled its case count to 409 on Monday from the 86 cases recorded there at the beginning of October.

Conversely, Piscataquis County marked a rare milestone Oct. 11 in being the only county in Maine with the least cases at 10 and no active cases, and it remained that way until a new case was reported on Nov. 2. Since then, the county has added 25 new cases of which 12 are currently active.

In terms of raw numbers, Cumberland County continues to remain the hardest hit county in the state with a total of 3,599 confirmed and probable cases - in fact, that county has contributed over 25 percent of the 3,888 new cases thus far in November. In addition to York County's high contribution of cases over the weekend, Shah said Monday that 23 percent of the weekend's cases were from Cumberland County. York continues to be second highest in the state at 2,089 after topping the 2,000-mark on Nov. 22, followed by Androscoggin at 1,390 after crossing the 1,000-mark on Nov. 10.

Statewide, Monday's cumulative figures showed 647 of all cases required hospitalization or are currently hospitalized - including 54 in Penobscot - and 7,986 have recovered. As total cumulative cases have jumped alarmingly across the state, the statewide net active or unresolved case count - again determined by subtracting those who have recovered or died from total cases - dropped for the first time in weeks to 2,381 after hitting a new record of 2,392 on Nov. 22 after weeks of successive new records since pandemic tracking began as cases began surging in October. In contrast, October ranged from a high of 917 on Halloween to as low as 495 on Oct. 5. September's high mark of 501 active cases was recorded Sept. 24 and again Sept. 30 while it's low point was 389 calculated Sept. 8. Likewise, August had a simlar gap between its high and low points when there were 300 active cases calculated on Aug. 10 before the Millinocket wedding outbreak was discovered, and when it reached its peak of 399 on Aug. 30 as the outbreak progressed.

July also saw a lot of variability in net active cases, which began the month at 431 before dropping to as low as 296 for three days spanning July 13-15. To put that variability into perspective, consider that the lowest record for active cases since the peak in April continues to be the 293 case count recorded on May 1, and November's average thus far is almost four times that amount. Active cases had been showing a steady decline from April's peak until it surged again in mid-May when a rash of outbreaks began occurring in long-term care facilities across the state.

Since then, well over 140 new outbreaks in either congregate, long-term care or employer settings (see table below) have consistently kept average active cases above 400 from the beginning of June until the Oct. 28 triple-digit spikes began. Shah has attributed most of the state's recent case growth to community transmission and, with the sheer number of new and active cases, the Maine CDC is currently monitoring 1,146 of those active cases under its Sara Alert contract tracing system, which was down by 193 from last week. In all, 17,854 people have been enrolled in the contact tracing program since the pandemic monitoring began in March.

A trend that has been growing here in Maine and across the nation, however, is the decline of the case mortality rate. At the height of new case growth that occurred in May, which began the month at 1,122 and ended with 2,319 total cases by the time June arrived, the mortality rate among those cases hovered at around 5.1 percent. It was during that time when outbreaks were occurring in nursing homes and other long-term-care settings (see table below) and many of the deaths at the time were among those residents. Overall, 97 of the deaths that have occurred in Maine, or about 55 percent, were from those settings including the recent deaths associated with the outbreak at the Brooks church.

Yet as the months have progressed since the pandemic began and cases have continued to rise, the case mortality rate has not kept up - in fact, it's gone the other way. With only five deaths reported in October and taking the 26 new deaths reported this month so far into account, Maine's case mortality dropped to 1.67 percent on Monday, down significantly by 95 basis points from the beginning of October. In all, the case mortality rate is less than a third of what it was in May and that trend is playing out across the country as well.

Nationally, cases have topped 12.3 million across the U.S. and the death toll Monday stood at 257,072, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Although nearly every state has seen cases rise significantly the past few weeks, the case mortality rate across the nation has mirrored Maine's experience and been dropping since the pandemic began. It was about 6.2 percent on May 15; 5.6 percent a month later on June 15; 3.9 percent in mid-July and 3.16 percent by Aug. 15.

As of Monday, that figure stood at 2.08 percent, down 78 basis points since the beginning of October when it stood at 2.86 percent. The data indicates new cases are not translating at the same percentage to deaths as before. And while Maine's case mortality rate is faring better than the nation's, the trend seems to confirm both Maine CDC and national reports that healthier younger people are now getting infected and therapeutics are helping the older demographics.

Still, the older you are matters. The majority of deaths occurring in Maine are those over aged 70 and a fair percentage are still occurring in long-term nursing home or healthcare settings. And of course it is impossible to determine what the actual infection mortality rate is, which is different than the case mortality rate. A July study by the U.S. CDC Covid-19 Response Team said infections across the country may have been up to 10 times greater than what was reported from March to May since some people were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms and never reported their sickness or simply recovered.

Shah said Monday that 1,507 cases involve healthcare workers, which was up 50 from Friday. According to Robert Long, spokesman for the Maine CDC, 1,235 of those workers have since recovered, leaving about 272 with unresolved cases. Shah said previously that the ratio of healthcare workers testing positive to general infections would naturally rise as the Maine CDC conducted universal testing at long-term care and congregate settings and with the testing of healthcare workers being a priority in general. The ratio of cases involving healthcare workers has historically ranged from an average of 21-25 percent the past few months. As of Friday, that ratio was around 14.3 percent, down by over a point from last week's 15.4 percent.

About 811.757 PCR Molecular (active RNA swab) tests, 12,233 antibody tests and 1,563 of the new Antigen tests have tested negative, while 389 antibody tests have tested positive as of Monday. Including tests that were deemed positive or indeterminate, over 838,000 tests have been conducted across the state as of Nov. 22 - those figures are now only updated Monday through Friday. According to Shah, Maine's seven-day positivity rate dropped to 2.7 percent, down from 2.9 percent on Friday but still more than six times the low point on Oct. 22 when it was 0.42 percent. Shah has said previously that Maine's postivity rate still compares favorably to the national rate amid the current surge across the country.

Shah said that Maine also continues to lead the nation in its testing rate, which hit a new milestone Monday at 731 per 100,000 compared to 363 per 100,000 nationally.

Worldwide, infections have topped the 58.95 million mark and deaths stand at 1,393,407. Cases in India, Brazil, Russia, Argentina and some other hotspots in the southern hemisphere have spiked in the past two months, and Europe is now exploding with cases that are leading governmental officials to re-enter lockdowns.

India topped the 9 million-mark on Nov. 20 and, with 9.14 million cases, is second only to the U.S. Brazil, which is third highest in the world, also marked a milestone on Nov. 20 in topping 6 million cases and stood at 6.07 million on Monday. Russia also crossed another threshold on Friday in reaching 2 million cases and now has 2.09 million.

In October, several other nations crossed the million mark, including Argentina on Oct. 19 and of which now stands at 1.37 million cases. Spain marked that milestone Oct. 21 and currently has 1.58 million cases. France, however, crossed that threshold a day later on Oct. 22 and quickly overtook both Argentina and Spain and moved to fourth highest on Nov. 8 when it overtook Russia's case count. Since then, France has added over a million new cases to top the 2 million-mark on Nov. 17. That nation currently has 2.19 million cases.

The United Kingdom crossed the million mark on Oct. 31 and, with its 1.53 million cases, overtook Colombia's eighth-place spot in less than a week. That country now sits at seventh place in surpassing Argentina's case count on Nov. 12. Colombia, which also joined the million-plus list on Oct. 24, now stands at 1.24 million. And a new entrant to the million-plus list, Italy, became the latest European country to cross the milestone on Nov. 11 and now has 1.43 million cases in surpassing both Colombia's and Argentina's case counts. Also joining the list is Mexico, which crossed the million threshold Nov. 14 and now has 1.025 million.

According to national reports, U.S. officials believe China - where the virus originated - and Iran continue to report suspect numbers although Iran's case count has nearly doubled since the beginning of October.

In all, there have been over 200 identified outbreaks and at least 25 percent of all cases have occurred in congregate, long-term care or workplace settings. As mentioned above, about 60 percent of all deaths in Maine have involved residents from long-term care facilities. Although this is not a complete list, below is a breakdown of Maine's larger outbreak investigations. Due to the massive increase in new investigations, the list will soon be updated to include outbreaks of 10 or more:

 

Open and closed outbreaks in Maine

Residents

Workers/Patrons/Others

Deaths

Total

100 State Street - Portland

20

0

0

20

Abbott Laboratories - Scarborough

0

29

0

29

Advanced Health Physical Therapy - Waterville

0

3

0

3

Androscoggin County Jail - Auburn

3

0

0

3

Applebees - Auburn

0

3

0

3

Augusta Center for Rehabilitation

48

29

8

77

Baker Company - Sanford

0

7

0

7

Barron Center - Portland

1

3

0

4

Bath Iron Works - Bath

0

3

0

3

BEK Inc. - Brunswick

0

4

0

4

Big Moose Inn - Millinocket

0

55

0

55

Birchwoods at Canco - Portland

0

6

0

6

Bluestar Homecare - Biddeford

1

4

0

5

Brink Chiropractic - Sanford

0

3

0

3

Bristol Seafood - Portland

0

19

0

19

Brook House

6

10

0

16

Brooks Pentecostal Church/School - Brooks

0

60

0

60

Buffalo Wild Wings - Auburn

0

4

0

4

Buxton/Saco/Sanford Fire Departments

0

7

0

7

Calais Regional Hospital

0

6

0

6

Calvary Baptist Church - Sanford

0

10

0

10

Cape Memory Care - Cape Elizabeth

61

24

7

85

Cape Seafood - Saco

0

10

0

10

Central Maine Medical Center

15

0

0

15

Cianbro Construction

0

29

0

29

Clover Health Care - Auburn

5

20

0

25

Coastal Community Care Maple - Lewiston

2

2

0

4

Coastal Ridge Elementary School - York

0

4

0

4

Colby College - Waterville

0

4

0

4

Community Concepts Child Care - Wilton

0

3

0

3

Community Regional Charter School - Cornville

0

17

0

17

Corsetti's Restaurant - Westbrook

0

4

0

4

Crossfit Casco Bay Undaunted - Augusta

0

3

0

3

Creative Works - Westbrook

4

4

0

8

Deeper Life Assembly Church - Pittsfield

0

11

0

11

Durgin Pines - Kittery

26

13

3

39

Easy Care Residential - Portland

6

0

0

6

Edgewood Rehab - Farmington

17

4

1

21

Eldredge Lumber Yard - York

0

13

0

13

Faith Bible College - Charleston

0

3

0

3

Falmouth by the Sea - Falmouth

45

30

4

75

Family Shelter - Portland

16

0

0

16

Goodwill Industries - Gorham

0

4

0

4

Granite Bay Care - Seven sites in total

20

12

0

32

Guy E Rowe School - Norway

2

2

0

4

Hancock Foods - Ellsworth

0

13

0

13

Hartt Transportation - Bangor

0

4

0

4

Hope Baptist Church - Manchester

0

5

0

5

Hope House - Bangor

18

4

0

22

Houlton Ambulance Service - Houlton

0

11

0

11

Hussey Seating Co. - North Berwick

0

3

0

3

Husson University - Bangor

0

15

0

15

J's Oysters - Portland

0

5

0

5

Jonesport Pentecostal Church5

0

9

0

9

John F. Murphy Home - Auburn

12

0

0

12

Kids Count Child Center

0

4

0

4

Kidspeace of New England - Ellsworth

0

17

0

17

Lafayette Club - Sanford

0

3

0

3

Landry French Construction

0

6

0

6

Lawrence Junior High School - Fairfield

0

3

0

3

Little Lamb Learning Center - Springdale

0

11

0

11

LL Bean - Freeport

0

17

0

17

Maine Maritime Academy - Castine

0

3

0

3

Maine Nordiques Hockey Team - Lewiston

0

3

0

3

Maine Vets Home - Scarborough

34

29

13

63

Maple House - Spurwink

1

6

0

7

Maplecrest Rehabilitation Center - Madison

24

15

7

39

Marshwood Center - Lewiston

31

17

4

48

Massabesic Middle School - E. Waterboro

0

8

0

8

Merrill Farms - Wells

0

13

0

13

Midcoast Athletic Center - Warren

0

5

0

5

Milestone Recovery - Portland

2

3

0

5

Montello Manor - Lewiston

2

2

0

4

ND Paper - Rumford

0

24

0

24

Nichols Manufacturing - Portland

0

9

0

9

Oak Grove Center - Waterville

0

3

0

3

Ogunquit Beach Lobster House - Ogunquit

0

3

0

3

Orono Commons - Orono

5

5

3

10

Oxford Hills High School - S. Paris

0

5

0

5

Oxford Street Shelter - Portland

12

3

0

15

Pat's Pizza - Portland

0

22

0

22

Pine Point Center - Scarborough

9

6

0

15

Pinnacle Health & Rehabilitation - Canton

15

11

2

26

Port Resources - South Portland

7

5

0

12

Portland Center for Assisted Living - Portland

3

2

0

5

Portland High School - Portland

0

3

0

3

Portland Pie Company - Windham

0

3

0

3

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

0

18

0

18

Pratt & Whitney - Berwick

0

6

0

6

Proctor and Gamble - Auburn

0

13

0

13

Ready Seafood - Saco

0

11

0

11

Residential Community Support Services - Biddeford

1

3

0

4

Ruby's Wood Grille - York

0

9

0

9

Russell Park Rehabilitation & Living Center - Lewiston

64

65

3

129

Sandy River Center - Farmington

14

2

1

16

Sanford American Legion - Sanford

0

4

0

4

Sanford High School - Sanford

0

18

0

18

Second Baptist Church - Calais

0

27

0

27

Seal Rock - Saco

5

7

2

12

Sedgewood Commons - Falmouth

41

18

10

59

Serenity Residential Care - Gorham

5

0

0

5

Skowhegan-Madison Elks Lodge - Skowhegan

0

5

0

5

Springbrook Center - Westbrook

52

25

9

58

Summer Commons Construction - Sanford

0

4

0

4

Sunrise Opportunities - Machias

4

1

0

5

Support Solutions - Auburn

4

0

0

4

Tall Pines - Belfast

32

11

13

43

The Cedars - Portland

12

6

4

18

The Meadows - Greene

4

11

0

15

The Mooring on Foreside - Cumberland Foreside

4

5

1

9

Togus VA Medical Center - Chelsea

0

4

0

4

Tyson Foods - Portland

0

55

0

55

Ubuntu Care Center - Lewiston

0

4

0

4

University of Maine - Orono

0

4

0

4

University of Maine Law School - Portland

0

1

0

1

University of New England - Biddeford

0

3

0

3

Waldo County General Hospital - Belfast

0

4

0

4

Willows Pizza & Restaurant - S. Portland

0

7

0

7

Windham Correctional Facility - Windham

131

17

0

148

Walmart - Presque Isle

0

3

0

3

Walpole Woodworkers, Inc. - Pittsfield

0

9

0

9

Wolves Club - Sanford

0

6

0

6

Woodfords Family Services - South Portland

2

1

0

3

Woodland Memory Care - Rockland

10

2

0

12

Woodland Pulp - Baileyville

0

19

0

19

Woodlands Senior Living - Brewer

15

3

1

18

Wyman's of Maine - Cherryfield

0

7

0

7

York County Jail - Alfred

48

34

0

82

Total

931

1,281

97

2,212

(data courtesy of Maine CDC)

Last modified on Monday, 23 November 2020 14:52

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