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As cases surge, Gov. Mills urges compliance: 'If you love this country, wear a mask'

Find developments on the Maine coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak as we work together to separate facts from fear. Wednesday, November 18, 2020.

MAINE, USA — KEY MAINE CORONAVIRUS FACTS

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18

The Maine CDC reported four additional deaths of people with COVID-19. The state death toll now stands at 170.

The Maine CDC reported 156 additional COVID-19 cases.

Of the 9,519 total COVID-19 cases in Maine, 8,559 are confirmed by tests and 960 are probable.

600 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point during their COVID-19 illnesses. 85 people in Maine are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. 30 are being treated in intensive care units and 10 are on ventilators. 

7,229 Mainers have recovered from COVID-19.

The Maine CDC is scheduled to provide a state coronavirus update at 2 p.m. Wednesday. NEWS CENTER Maine will stream it live on air, as well as on our website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and mobile app.

Credit: NCM

Wednesday Coronavirus Briefing

Gov. Janet Mills is leading Wednesday's coronavirus briefing with Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah and Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. 

Gov. Mills

Mills began the briefing Wednesday by comparing where Maine stood in terms of the pandemic just last month and where we stand today. A month ago, Maine's seven-day positivity rate was around 0.58 percent—today, it's now 2.66 percent. 

"The winter surge that we were warned about, it's not just coming—it's here. And it's expanding, it's growing by the day," Mills said. 

As the virus continues to surge in Maine and the families will be gathering for the holidays, Mills urged Mainers to re-think their travel and gathering plans.  

“Maine people need to ask themselves, ‘Do I have to take this trip?’ if the answer is honestly ‘No,’ don’t go,” she said.

She also urged people to continue doing what they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, wash your hands, and watching your distance.

"To the skeptics who may hear this message, may not want to hear this message, I want you to know that refusing to follow public health guidance doesn't hurt me personally...you're not going to offend me," Mills said. Mills said who is getting hurt is the small business owner, the health care worker, the grandparent in a nursing home who wants to hug their grandchild. "Think of them when you decide whether or not to wear a mask."

"If you love this country, if you love this state, I ask you: Wear a mask. It's what true patriots do. It's what Maine people do."

Dr. Shah

The four additional deaths of people with COVID-19 are: a woman in her 90s from Knox County, a man in his 80s from Kennebec County, a woman in her 80s from York County, and a man in his 90s from York County. 

Just in the past 30 days along, 123 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, Shah said. Currently, 85 people are in the hospital, representing an increase of 12 hospitalizations just since yesterday. 

Of those currently hospitalized, 30 people are in intensive care, and 10 people are on ventilators. 

Outbreak Updates

Just in the past day and a half, the Maine CDC has opened six new outbreak investigations:

  • BMW facility in Westbrook: Four total cases
  • Bowdoin College: Cases among three students and one staff member
  • The Mooring on Foreside memory care facility in Cumberland Foreside: Two cases among residents, and one case among staff
  • Berlin City Auto: Three cases
  • Huntington Common in Kennebunk: Four cases among residents, and four cases among staff
  • Paris Elementary School: Three cases among students

Commissioner Lambrew

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that it will provide additional financial support to nursing facilities for periodic COVID-19 testing of their staff.

Through MaineCare, DHHS will help to reimburse nursing facilities for their costs to conduct this surveillance testing using commercial laboratories. This investment of an estimated $8 million in State and Federal funds over the coming months will help protect residents and staff from the silent spread of this deadly disease.

The Department also announced that all licensed nursing facilities in Maine now have access to Connect to Care Jobs, a portal where facilities can connect with qualified job applicants.

“Providing expanded support for nursing facilities during this surge in COVID-19 in Maine is critical to help the hardworking frontline workers care for themselves and residents of nursing homes,” Lambrew said. “The financing and staffing resources add to the support Maine has offered to protect some of our most vulnerable residents.”

Additionally, Lambrew announced that the University of Maine at Machias is becoming the Maine DHHS's newest “swab and send” site, providing free COVID-19 tests to people who think they need a test, regardless of symptoms and without the need for a referral from a health provider.

Testing will be available on Mondays from noon to 4 p.m. by appointment starting Monday, Nov. 23 and will continue at the Machias campus through at least the week of Jan. 25, 2021, when in-person instruction resumes across the University of Maine System for the spring semester.

Read more about that announcement here: New 'swab and send' testing site at the University of Maine at Machias will be open to public

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17

The Maine CDC reported one additional death of a person with COVID-19, bringing the state death toll to 166. The additional death reported Tuesday is a woman in her 90s from York County.

The Maine CDC reported 246 additional COVID-19 cases Tuesday, a new single-day record for the state.

Of the 9,363 total COVID-19 cases in Maine, 8,411 are confirmed by tests and 952 are probable.

589 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point during their COVID-19 illnesses.

 7,025 Mainers have recovered from COVID-19.

The next COVID-19 briefing is set for 2 p.m. Wednesday. 

Credit: NCM

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16

The Maine CDC did not report any additional deaths of people with COVID-19. The state death toll remains at 165.

The Maine CDC reported 173 additional cases Monday. 

Of the 9,117 total COVID-19 cases in Maine, 8,180 are confirmed by tests and 937 are probable.

577 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point during their COVID-19 illnesses. 69 people in Maine are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 28 of whom are being treated in intensive care units and seven of whom are on ventilators.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah emphasized Monday that these hospitalizations have an affect not only on the patients and their families, but on Maine's healthcare workers too.

"Not everything that matters can be measured when it comes to COVID-19," Dr. Shah said.

6,830 Mainers have recovered from COVID-19.

Moderna said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine is proving to be highly effective in a major trial, a second dash of hope in the global race for a shot to tame a resurgent virus that is now killing more than 8,000 people a day worldwide.

The company said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from Moderna’s ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

"The early doses of both this vaccine from Moderna, as well as the previous vaccine we've discussed from Pfizer, will be made available first and foremost to healthcare workers and first responders in Maine," Dr. Shah said. "We do that for two reasons. The first is that this is the core group who are taking care of ill patients across the state and we want to make sure we can keep that capacity high."

"The other reason we start with healthcare workers and first responders is because we'd also like to tap them to make sure they are part of our vaccine force. That's one of the reasons why having them be first in line for the vaccine is critical," Dr. Shah said. "But more generally speaking, these data show now that there is going to be a shift in the conversation from vaccines to vaccination. That's what we at the Maine CDC have been planning and preparing for for months now, is the process of administering and distributing the vaccine."

New Maine CDC Outbreak Investigations

The Maine CDC has identified the following number of cases at the following facilities:

  • Four staff members at Cove's Edge, a long-term care facility in Damariscotta.
  • "Three perhaps four" cases associated with Maine Medical Center
  • One student and three staff members at Whitefield Elementary School

"These three new outbreak investigations come on top of 11 outbreak investigations that Maine CDC epidemiologists opened just on Saturday and Sunday," Dr. Shah said.

  • Three cases at the Tabernacle of the Congregation
  • Three cases at the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington
  • Three cases at the Calumet Club, a social club in Augusta
  • Three staff members at Clover Health in Auburn
  • Three cases at Downeast Transportation
  • Two students and one staff member at Edward Little High School in Auburn
  • Four cases at Farrington Elementary School in Augusta
  • One student and two staff members at Lewiston High School
  • One child and six staff members at the Little Hands Daycare in Falmouth
  • Four staff members at North East Mobile Health Services in Rockport
  • Four staff members at the Otis Elevator Company in Westbrook

"As we've talked about, what we've been seeing for weeks now is that the ground has been seeded with ever-increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and we're now starting to see patches in the form of outbreaks emerge all across the state," Dr. Shah said. "Sadly that trend is one that may continue."

Credit: NCM

WEEKEND UPDATES

RESOURCES

Coronavirus, COVID-19 Background

The official name for the coronavirus is “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes is named “coronavirus disease 2019” or “COVID-19” for short. Coronavirus is a family of viruses, which can infect people and animals. The viruses can cause the common cold or more serious diseases like SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.

The CDC says symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and in some cases sore throat.

The CDC says there are simple steps to take to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Stay home while you're sick and avoid close contact with others
  • The Maine Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is holding coronavirus briefings on Tuesdays and Thursdays with director Dr. Nirav Shah to keep the public up to date on the situation in Maine

NEWS CENTER Maine YouTube COVID-19 Playlist