Admin

Stay up to date with daily updates on this page.

Related Links:

State modifies reopening plan for rural counties

As thousands still wait for unemployment, Maine labor commissioner is grilled over the system's problems

Gov. Mills extends state of emergency, releases plan to reopen Maine

Gov. Janet Mills shuts down more businesses

Lockdown: Life in Maine grinds to a halt amid COVID-19 concerns

A note from our editor

DAILY UPDATE: Current information as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, with CDC data as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5

AUGUSTA - Total deaths related to COVID-19 remained steady at 124 on Thursday, while total cases rose by a net of five to 3,997, according to the latest data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC). Cases reported yesterday were 3,992, but that Aug. 4 figure was revised to 3,983 on Thursday, which indicates there are actually 14 new cases.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director for the Maine CDC, said during Tuesday's press briefing that cases are under constant investigation and several figures were revised Tuesday due to those investigations, including total deaths and cases attributed to COVID-19. Total deaths were revised downward Tuesday when it was determined that a previously reported death in Cumberland County was in fact not COVID-19 related. The new death reported Wednesday occurred in Cumberland County.

There were 667 new cases in July, compared to the 935 new cases reported in June and lower than April's total of 781. May still holds the single-month record at 1,199, and March remains the lowest month with 342 total cases when tracking began. There have been 81 cases so far in August, which puts the month on track to experience just over 500 cases at the current run rate.

Cases in Penobscot County rose by two on Thursday to 150 after jumping sharply on Monday when five new cases were reported - that figure remained the same Tuesday and Wednesday as well. The county had experienced 38 new cases in July - a little more than one average case per day - but has recorded 12 new cases in the last two weeks. According to the zip code breakdown, which lags current case count data by at least a few days but was updated on Wednesday, the Bangor/Hermon area jumped by six cases, or 10 percent, to 66 cases while Brewer also added one to total nine. Both Hampden and Orono remained the same at seven and six respectively, with all of Orono's cases occurring at the Orono Commons nursing home (see table below). Aside from those five municipalities along with Medway, which has had a total of 12 cases, all other zip codes in Penobscot County continue to report five or less to no cases in total.

Taking into account the five deaths that have occurred in Penobscot County and the 125 cases that have since recovered, the county's net active cases dropped to 20 on Wednesday and remained at that figure Thursday despite the two new cases. Net active cases are still higher than the seven active cases a month ago at the beginning of July, although that figure has been dropping the past few days. 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, the county has not had nearly the amount of growth in new cases as Maine's three other community transmission counties of Cumberland, York and Androscoggin.

Thursday's cumulative figures also showed 390 of all cases required hospitalization or are currently hospitalized - including 22 in Penobscot - and 3,475 have recovered. Shah said Thursday that 907 cases involve healthcare workers, which was up two from Tuesday, and 815 of those healthcare workers have since recovered, according to Robert Long, communications director for the Maine CDC. Shah said previously that the ratio of healthcare workers testing positive to general infections was expected to rise as the Maine CDC conducts universal testing at the long-term care and congregate settings and with the testing of healthcare workers being a priority in general. Previously the ratio of cases involving heathcare workers was running at an average of 21 percent before rising as high as 25 percent. As of Tuesday, that ratio dropped to around 22 percent, down four percentage points from last week.

While total cumulative cases continued to rise - albeit more slowly - across the state, Tuesday's net active or unresolved case count (determined by subtracting those who have recovered or died from total cases) dropped significantly again under the 400 mark to 398 on Thursday. On Monday, that figure was 450.

July saw a lot of variability in net active cases, which began the month at 471 before dropping to as low as 372 on July 16. To put that variability into perspective, consider that the lowest record for active cases since April continues to be the 372 case count recorded July 16, and Thursday's total still continues the downward trend from the 524 active cases at the beginning of June. Active cases had been showing a steady decline throughout April until it surged after a rash of outbreaks occurred across the state at the beginning of May. In all, over 40 outbreaks have been identified in either congregate or employer settings (see the table below) and Shah attributed most of the case growth in May to those outbreaks.

According to the latest data, three cases out of the current 11 hospitalizations are in ICUs and one is on a ventilator, while eight are hospitalized outside those units. Current hospitalizations dropped sharply a couple of weeks ago and have generally been showing a steady decrease for the past month. Shah said during Thursday's press briefing that Maine's hospitalization rate is less than one per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 17 per 100,000.

 

About 175.279 PCR (active RNA swab) tests and 8,540 antibody tests have tested negative, while 430 antibody tests have tested positive as of Thursday. Including those tests that were deemed indeterminate, 189,483 tests have been conducted across the state as of Aug. 5.

 

Shah reported previously that the outbreaks at Durgin Pines, Cianbro, Maine Veterans Home, The Hope House, Edgewood Rehab, Oxford Street Shelter, Tall Pines and the Augusta Center for Rehabilitation were deemed closed by the Maine CDC. In all cases, the facilities met the 15-day window with no new cases to be deemed closed. Since then, he added Cape Memory Care, Cape Seafood, Bath Iron Works and Falmouth by the Sea and The Mooring on Foreside to that list.

 

The past few weeks, Shah has reported new outbreaks at Montello Manor in Lewiston, Serenity Residential Care in Gorham, Support Solutions in Auburn, Abbott Laboratories in Scarborough, Nichols Manufacturing in Portland, Sedgewood Commons nursing home in Falmouth, Bath Iron Works, and Pratt & Whitney in Berwick. On Tuesday, he reported new outbreaks at Sappi Paper in Westbrook, Central Maine Medical Center and Hancock Foods in Ellsworth.

 

In all, nearly 26 percent of all cases have occurred in congregage or long-term care settings and 72 of the 124 deaths in Maine - or just over 58 percent - involve residents from those facilities. Below is a breakdown of Maine's outbreaks:

 

Open and closed outbreaks in Maine

Residents

Staff

Deaths

Total

100 State Street - Portland

20

0

0

20

Abbott Laboratories - Scarborough

0

29

0

29

Augusta Center for Rehabilitation

48

28

8

76

Barron Center - Portland

1

3

0

4

Bath Iron Works - Bath

0

3

0

3

Birchwoods at Canco - Portland

0

6

0

6

Bluestar Homecare - Biddeford

1

4

0

5

Bristol Seafood - Portland

0

19

0

19

Brook House

6

10

0

16

Cape Memory Care - Cape Elizabeth

62

23

6

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

3

Creative Works - Westbrook

4

4

0

8

Durgin Pines - Kittery

2

4

0

6

Easy Care Residential - Portland

6

0

0

6

Edgewood Rehab - Farmington

17

6

1

23

Eldredge Lumber Yard - York

0

13

0

13

Falmouth by the Sea - Falmouth

48

28

4

76

Family Shelter - Portland

16

0

0

16

Granite Bay Care - Seven sites in total

20

12

0

32

Hancock Foods - Ellsworth

0

11

0

11

Hope House - Bangor

18

4

0

22

Houlton Ambulance Service - Houlton

0

11

0

11

John F. Murphy Home - Auburn

12

0

0

12

Landry French Construction

0

6

0

6

Maine Vets Home - Scarborough

34

29

14

63

Maple House - Spurwink

1

6

0

7

Marshwood Center - Lewiston

16

9

2

25

Merrill Farms - Wells

0

9

0

9

Milestone Recovery - Portland

2

3

0

5

Montello Manor - Lewiston

2

1

0

3

Nichols Manufacturing - Portland

0

9

0

9

Oak Grove Center - Waterville

3

0

0

3

Orono Commons - Orono

5

5

3

10

Oxford Street Shelter - Portland

12

3

0

15

Pine Point Center - Scarborough

2

2

0

4

Port Resources - South Portland

7

5

0

12

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

Seal Rock - Saco

0

3

0

3

Sedgewood Commons - Falmouth

41

16

9

53

Serenity Residential Care - Gorham

5

0

0

5

Springbrook Center - Westbrook

38

20

8

58

Support Solutions - Auburn

4

0

0

4

Tall Pines - Belfast

32

11

13

43

The Cedars - Portland

12

6

4

18

The Mooring on Foreside - Cumberland Foreside

2

4

0

6

Tyson Foods - Portland

0

55

0

55

Ubuntu Care Center - Lewiston

0

4

0

4

Woodfords Family Services - South Portland

2

1

0

3

Wyman's of Maine - Cherryfield

0

4

0

4

Total

524

523

72

1,047

(data courtesy of Maine CDC)

 

According to Shah, three of the four counties designated as community transmission counties - Cumberland, York and Androscoggin - continue to see growth in cases but leveled off to the point where Gov. Janet Mills allowed indoor seating at restaurants, gyms and nail salons to reopen. However, bars without outdoor seating and nightclubs remain closed across the state.

 

Cumberland County continues to remain the hardest hit across the state with a total of 2,070 confirmed cases, followed by York with 666 and Androscoggin at 548. Those three counties have accounted for the majority of the case growth the past three months. Although not designated a community transmission county, Kennebec County has been the fourth hardest hit with 169 cases primarily due to outbreaks in congregate or LTC settings, although Penobscot County is now approaching Kennebec's figures. With the exception of Piscataquis and Waldo counties, which had no active cases as of Thursday, all other counties across Maine have at least one active case. Hancock County had no active cases until July 28 and, in the span since, has recorded 16 new cases in a matter of days with five of them at the previously mentioned outbreak at Hancock Foods.

 

Nationally, there are now nearly 4.78 million cases across the U.S., up by about 72,000 since Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Meanwhile, the death toll Thursday stood at 159,407, up about 2,100. The country has experienced an accelerated case growth the past few weeks with new outbreaks experienced in South Carolina, Arizona, Oregon, Florida, California and Texas, which has forced some governors to halt opening up the economy and mandating face masks to help stem the growth. According to national reports, most of that growth has been in healthier younger people and although new cases have risen sharply, the mortality rate across the nation has actually been dropping since the pandemic began. It was 3.7 percent two weeks ago, 3.4 percent last Tuesday and 3.3 percent as of Monday. That ratio dropped to 3.28 percent on Wednesday and remained the same Thursday.

 

Worldwide, infections have now topped the 18.89 million mark with 710,110 deaths. The U.S. was previously a major contributor to the growth in both cases and deaths as testing efforts have expanded markedly across the country, although the latter as a percentage has been dropping. Recently, however, India, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Chile and other countries in the southern hemisphere are reporting sharp spikes as those countries head into autumn. Brazil accounts for over 2.85 million cases, and that figure is up by over 2.15 million cases in the past month alone and is second only to the U.S. The third largest case count belongs to India, which overtook Russia in total cases over a month ago and hit the million mark July 17. That country has since added nearly a million more cases in the past 18 days. In most cases, the majority of new cases in those countries have occurred in the past month and have accelerated the past two weeks.

 

U.S. officials believe China, where the virus orginated and of which its existence was reportedly kept secret from the world for weeks - likely resulting in the pandemic's current severity - continues to report numbers that remain suspect, according to national reports.

 

Other major developments (by day):

 

July 31

Green means go. At least that what the Mills administration said today when they released updated guidance to assist school communities in making their decisions about how to resume instruction this fall in the face of COVID-19.  This guidance includes the Health Advisory System that classifies counties’ relative risk by color as well as updated requirements for schools to reopen safely.

The Health Advisory System, a collaboration among the Maine Department of Education (DOE), the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the Maine CDC previously announced classifications developed to categorize counties based on quantitative and qualitative data about COVID-19 including recent data on case rates, positivity rates, and syndromic data (e.g., symptoms of influenza or COVID-19) among others. The system categorizes counties by three-color based designations: red, yellow, and green.

The initial assessment released today showed that all 16 of Maine's counties are currently categorized as “green,” suggesting a currently low COVID-19 risk relatively and that in-person instruction can be adopted as long as schools can implement the six "Requirements for Safely Opening Schools in the Fall." While COVID-19 is more prevalent in Cumberland, York, Androscoggin, and Sagadahoc counties than in Maine's other counties, the assessment pertains to the unique circumstances of schools and currently indicates relatively limited risk statewide. All counties, like the state as a whole, have COVID-19 prevalence below that of virtually all other states.

 

July 30

Gov. Janet Mills announced during Thursday's Maine CDC press briefing that she will be expanding protections to help renters who continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Mills said that MaineHousing will double its rental assistance from $500 to $1,000 through the COVID-19 Rental Relief Program beginning Monday, Aug. 3. The governor, who established the program with MaineHousing in April, is dedicating an initial $5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to support the expansion. She also signed an executive order continuing expanded timeframe protections for renters in the evictions process.

 

The moves come as the Maine Supreme Judicial Court plans to reopen courts for hearings next week and as the Federal government appears poised to reduce Federal unemployment benefits, leaving people concerned they may face a housing cliff.

 

“Many Maine people are still experiencing significant financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, and the last thing they need to worry about is losing their home,” said Mills. “While the future of the $600 boost in Federal unemployment benefits remains in question, we believe the combination of an expanded rental relief program and continued protections through the updated Executive Order can help renters while also not leaving landlords behind. My Administration will continue to work closely with MaineHousing and local agencies across the state to help keep Mainers housed.”

 

The program, which the administration said has helped nearly 10,000 people, expires Friday, July 31, 2020, and those who still wish to sign up for the program may do so until 5 p.m. that day. The expanded program will begin accepting applications next week. Information may be found at mainehousing.org/covidrent.

 

July 1

Gov. Janet Mills announced during Wednesday’s Maine CDC press briefing that visitors from Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey will be exempted from the 14-day quarantine requirement or negative COVID-19 testing alternative. Mills said the change will be effective Friday, July 3.

 

Mills said the decision to add those states to the exemption that already includes Vermont and New Hampshire comes after review of those states’ public health data measurements including the prevalence of the virus and the positivity rates in those other states. In reviewing the metrics, Mills said Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey had lower positive rates than Maine’s and the prevalence of the virus in those states is similar and continues a downward trend.

 

Additionally, Mills said she will be issuing an executive order requiring Maine’s large retail stores, lodging establishments, restaurants, and outdoor bars and tasting rooms in Maine’s coastal counties and in the more populous cities of Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston and Auburn to enforce the state’s face covering requirement. In the last week, states across the country, such as North Carolina, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon, have implemented similar strong measures related to face coverings, given the evidence that masks significantly reduce transmission of the virus.

 

The coastal counties include Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland and York.

 

June 22

Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner for the Department of Health and Human Services, said during the Maine CDC's press briefing that the Mills administration will postpone reopening indoor bar service for bars and bar areas of restaurants across the state. Originally scheduled to reopen July 1, Lambrew cited data from ongoing outbreaks traced to bars in Texas, Louisiana, Idaho and Florida and the fact that bar settings are problematic since spaces are smaller where patrons can't socially distance or wear masks due the traditional nature of bar settings.

 

May 27

Gov. Janet Mills announced restuarants in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties will remained closed to dine-in service as Stage 2 of Maine's reopening plan takes effect June 1. Stage 2 involves reopening retail outlets, restaurants, fitness and excercise centers, nail technicians, lodging, campgrounds and children's day camps for Maine residents and those who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement, and coastal state parks.

 

Previously, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said gyms and nail salons across the state would not be permitted to reopen June 1 due to COVID-19 transmission concerns observed in other states where they have reopened. Mills added restaurants to that delay Wednesday for the three community transmission counties due to continued case growth of COVID-19, while taking Penobscot County off that list since the county has only had an average of three cases a day since April.

 

"I know this is not welcome news for those restaurants who have been preparing to fully reopen next week," Mills said Wednesday. "It is our hope that by reopening for outdoor dining and curbside pickup and take out, we can still protect the public health and perhaps lessen the economic hardship that these businesses are are enduring."

 

May 18

Mills and Shah announced that the new IDEXX PCR testing machines were up and running and the state's Health and Environmental Lab (HETL) now has the capacity to process up to 1,000 tests per day on the new equipment. Correspondingly, Mills announced the testing priorities and tiers that were in place were recinded and new guidelines were established, including testing specimens from any person who has one or more symptoms, and testing those who are asymptomatic but may be at risk of speading COVID-19 to others. 

 

May 15

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin announced that her department has secured internet access and devices for all of Maine's children who were in need of it to complete their learning. Of the 21,845 students statewide lacking connectivity, based on data from the 75 percent of schools that responded, 14,494 students needed a wireless contract and 7,351 students needed only a device in order to have equitable access to online learning opportunities.

 

Through a combined effort with the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, ConnectME, and business and philanthropic entities, the Maine Department of Education (Maine DOE) has acquired 14,494 service contracts through three different service providers, nearly all of which are for WiFi-enabled Samsung Galaxy Tablets that can be used as learning tools and hotspots or hotspots only. Through one of the service providers, DOE was also able to order MiFi, a wireless router that acts as a mobile WiFi hotspot, to fulfill internet-only needs. To fulfill the device only needs, Maine DOE was able to order 7,450 Chromebooks.

 

Shah said the state has received another seven cases of Remdesivir, the antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences that has shown some success in treating the symptoms of the virus. This is in addition to the 10 cases Shah said the state received earlier in the week. The intravenous drug has already been shipped to hospitals across the state. 

 

May 14

Maine Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Heather Johnson said Thursday that the lodging industry can now begin taking reservations for in-state residents and those who have already traveled to Maine and satisfied the 14-day quarantine to begin lodging as of June 1. The restrictions for taking reservations for out-of-state travelers remains in place as the date those travelers can come to the state is currently set for July 1. 

 

May 13

Mills signed an order Wednesday extending Maine’s state of civil emergency for thirty days through June 11, 2020. It was Mills' second extension of the State of Civil Emergency and, by doing so, Mills said it gives her more time to access federal disaster and pandemic funding and allows her to continue using certain powers to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The new order is distinct from the Governor’s Executive Orders and from the Restarting Maine’s Economy plan. The Governor’s Executive Orders and the Restarting Maine’s Economy plan remain in effect and unchanged.

 

May 8

Mills announced Friday modified reopening plans for Maine's 12 rural counties that have not been deemed community transmission counties by the Maine CDC. She said Stage 1 restrictions will still be in place in the remaining four that have been deemed counties where community transmission are still occuring. She added that her "Stay Safer at Home" executive order will remain in place for the entire state.

 

May 7

Mills announced that the state has entered into a partnership with Idexx Laboratories in Westbrook, Maine that will triple Maine's testing capacity, which may affect the plan to reopen as testing ramps up.

 

May 5

Shah provided an update about antibody testing, a milestone epidemiologists state will aid in reopening and determine what the true infection rate is among the population. He said there are a lot of questions surrounding the testing, and even more questions about the reliability of tests that are currently available.

 

"Right now, there are a lot of different tests that are on the market for antibody testing. Some of them are very good, others of them are lacking," Shah said. "In fact, some of the ones that are out there right now in the United States haven't even received authorization from the Food and Drug Administration."

 

He added that some of the tests have been studied and the numbers have been disturbing, comparing their reliability to a coin toss.

 

"Given the number of different tests that are out there, it's really difficult to know whether the test that you might be getting is one of the really good ones or whether it's more akin to a coin flip," he said.

 

April 28

Mills announced her "Stay Safer at Home" executive order, extending the state of emergency until May 31. In doing so, she rolled out her four-stage plan to reopen Maine's economy, which in all respects has been decimated by the shutdowns. 

 

April 16

Mills issued an order that bars landlords from evicting their tenants during the pandemic. She also announced a new $5 million relief fund that would grant one-time $500 payments for eligible tenants who cannot pay their rent due to income loss.

 

"We are limiting evictions during this state of emergency," she said. "The order that I signed applies to commerical ventures as well as small businesses and homes and rental apartments."

 

Mills said the order strengthens penalties for landlords and property owners who try to evict someone unlawfully, especially since courts and the eviction process are essentially closed. In addressing mortgages and foreclosures, she added that while the federal CARES act put a moratorium on forclosures for federally-backed loans, she reached out to Maine-based banks and credit unions to do the same.

 

"I am urging them in the strongest terms to avoid initiating residential and commercial foreclosures and to pause any foreclosures that may be in progress," she said. "I'm urging them to refrain from mailing notices to cure to Maine residences and Maine businesses as long as this moratorium is in effect." 

 

April 3

Mills ordered the closure of all hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns and short-term rentals and put in place the requirement that all travelers arriving in Maine self-quarantine for 14 days. The order is still in effect with lodging able to open to Maine residents June 1 as part of stage 2, and out-of-state tourists on July 1 as part of stage 3, provided they self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival. Some lodging remained open to house essential healthcareand, utility and other workers.

Mills also previously moved the primary election to July 14.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory distress. Individuals who exhibit those symptoms are advised to contact medical providers before going to a health care facility. Medical providers will make initial determinations about who should be tested.

Published in Cover Story

Advertisements

The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine