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Maine Coronavirus Live Blog: 10 dead, 470 confirmed cases

The Maine CDC announced two new deaths on Friday, bringing the state total to nine. There is now at least one confirmed case in 15 of Maine's 16 counties.

MAINE, USA — NEWS CENTER MAINE FULL LIST OF CLOSINGS

WHAT 'SHELTER IN PLACE' or 'STAY AT HOME' ORDERS MEAN

Background on the coronavirus, COVID-19

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) announced on Tuesday, March 10 that they would be holding daily coronavirus briefings with director Dr. Nirav Shah to keep the public up to date on the situation in Maine.

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

Governor Janet Mills and the Maine CDC announced Maine's first presumptive positive case of coronavirus on Thursday, March 12. 

Sunday, April 5

The Maine CDC announced 14 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday.

This brings the total of Maine residents with the coronavirus to 470.

The number of deaths has stayed at 10. 

Credit: NCM

Friday, April 3

Maine CDC announced two additional deaths in the state, bringing Maine's death total to nine. One death was a man in his 70s from Cumberland County, the other was a woman in her 80s from Cumberland County.

There are currently 432 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Maine.

75 people in Maine have been hospitalized at some point during their COVID-19 illness. 113 people in Maine have fully recovered from the virus.

75 of the total cases are health care workers. Maine CDC takes special precautions with the hospitals where these people work to identify contacts they've had with patients and others. 

There is now a confirmed case in both Aroostook County and Washington County, which means there is now at least one case in 15 of Maine's 16 counties.

Community transmission has been detected in Cumberland County and York County. Maine CDC disease detectives are looking for evidence of community transmission in counties with higher numbers of cases, such as Kennebec County and Penobscot County.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said one of Maine's confirmed cases is a student associated with Thornton Academy.

A new shipment of more than 109,000 pieces of personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile is being distributed across the state on Friday. Maine CDC will focus on distributing this shipment to places where the most vulnerable patients might be, such as long term care facilities. 

There are 110 available intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Maine, out of a total of 289. There are 267 available ventilators in Maine, out of a total of 324. There are also just under 200 available alternative ventilators in Maine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has authorized states to utilize in times of emergency such as this.

There are 127 active respiratory therapists across the state.

Dr. Shah said in the past several weeks there have been reductions of up to 50 percent in traffic volume, most noticeably in Cumberland County. He commended the people of Maine for doing their part in staying home and encouraged people to continue exercising the health precautions recommended by Maine CDC.

"Speaking for myself, there are times it seems like we're living in a dream. One of those situations when you wake up in the middle of the night and you're not quite sure whether what happened the day before was real or some figment of your subconscious," Dr. Shah said. "It's almost as if we're living in a movie that was written, cast, and directed by our literary friend up in Bangor. But unlike a dream where your subconscious is in control, or a work of fiction where the author is in control, we are in a situation where we are in control, even though it may not feel that way."

Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center media availability

Dr. James Jarvis, the incident command specialist for Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, and Ali Worster, the hospital's Vice President of Human Resources, held a phone session for the media on Friday.

Dr. Jarvis said the current supply chain for the hospital's pharmaceuticals has been steady. He said they’re adequate and they feel the supply chain will be working for them.

He said there’s been a number of employees who have tested positive across the MaineHealth system, but that numbers at Eastern Maine Medical Center are very low.

When asked what his biggest fear for the future is, Dr. Jarvis said he fears the medical system will overuse its resources locally, statewide, and nationally, and that people won’t be able to receive the care they’ll need.

Dr. Jarvis said there have been discussions about looking at some facilities for sites to use as makeshift hospitals or care sites. Dr. Shah touched on this in his press conference Thursday as well.

Dr. Jarvis said there is currently only one patient across Northern Light who is in critical care. He said that person is not currently on a ventilator.

Worster said the hospital does have a number of traveling doctors and nurses that supplement their workforce. When asked about how concerned she is about these workers given they may be coming from other states, she said they've worked very closely with WorkHealth partners to evaluate anyone coming in and screen them to make sure they’re safe.  She said this remains a topic of conversation that they revisit on a regular basis.

When asked about staffing, she said they haven't had to look at the option of furloughs or layoffs of their employees.

NEWS CENTER Maine's Friday Coronavirus Coverage

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Thursday, April 2

The Maine CDC announced there are now 376 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Maine. Seven people in Maine who have tested positive have died.

68 people in Maine have been hospitalized at some point during their COVID-19 illness. 94 people in Maine have fully recovered from the virus.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said there are two ways a person can be considered to be recovered from COVID-19:

  • By follow-up lab testing that is negative
  • A person stops feeling symptoms (chiefly the absence of fever, cough, shortness of breath) for a certain number of days and Maine CDC deems they are no longer transmittable. More information about this can be found on the U.S. CDC's website.

68 of the total cases are health care workers.

There are still cases in 13 of Maine's 16 counties. Community transmission has been detected in Cumberland County and York County. Maine CDC disease detectives are looking for evidence of community transmission in counties with higher numbers of cases, such as Kennebec County and Penobscot County.

The Maine DHHS office in Lewiston remains closed until further notice, after someone associated with the office tested positive.

On Thursday morning, Maine CDC placed an order for 300,000 KN95 masks with a vendor in Maine they work with quite a bit. Maine CDC is also planning to begin distributing personal protective equipment on Friday.

There are 122 available intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Maine, out of a total of 285. There are 266 available ventilators in Maine, out of a total of 334. There are also about 186 available alternative ventilators in Maine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has authorized states to utilize in times of emergency such as this.

When asked about the status of respiratory therapists in Maine, Dr. Shah said hospitals have reported a total of 127 respiratory therapists actively practicing in Maine. Maine CDC is considering training people who work in similar fields to fill the state's void, as well as reaching out to other states that may have a surplus.

To deal with an anticipated increase in cases and the strain it will put on hospital facilities, Dr. Shah said Maine CDC has plans underway for an external site where people with potential symptoms can go to get checked out, as well as plans to establish an external hospital. No final decisions have been made concerning location or staffing.

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Wednesday, April 1

The Maine CDC announced on its website there are now 344 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state. There have also been two additional deaths, bringing the state total to seven.

The two latest deaths were women in their 80s from Cumberland County. Both women were hospitalized at the time of their deaths.

The first case in Hancock County was also announced, which means there are now cases in 13 of Maine's 16 counties. Dr. Shah said Maine CDC plans to continue to report county numbers rather than towns. He said it shouldn't make a difference to Mainers whether a case is in their town or in their county, they should exercise the same precautions regardless.

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63 people in Maine have been hospitalized at some point during their COVID-19 illness. 80 people have fully recovered from the virus. Maine CDC has fielded close to 4,000 consultations with health care providers across the state in connection with its COVID-19 work.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said community transmission has only been identified in Cumberland County and York County but Maine CDC continues to investigate the possibility of community transmission in other counties that have cases in the double digits.

Credit: NCM

"Employers have an obligation to make sure they themselves are keeping their employees safe," Dr. Shah said. He said this applies to Bath Iron Works, as well as every other employer in the state.

Dr. Shah still encourages people to exercise and walk their dogs, but to diligently exercise physical distancing with others while spending time outside.

Portland Shelter Situation

Dr. Shah said the Maine CDC has now detected two cases of COVID-19 in individuals associated with the Oxford Street Shelter in Portland. 

The first positive case of an Oxford Street shelter guest involved a woman from Massachusetts who arrived in Maine on March 25 and stayed at the Oxford Street Shelter until March 28, at which point she was put in isolation space. However, the woman had left her quarantine space during one of its 30-minute checks Tuesday afternoon. City staff immediately notified Maine CDC, Maine DHHS, and the Maine Department of Public Safety to seek their assistance in finding and detaining her as only the State has the authority to detain individuals during public health emergencies. City officials have worked cooperatively with these state agencies to locate this woman and ensure she remains in quarantine. The woman was located in Massachusetts by police late this morning and is being taken to a hospital in Boston.

The second case involves a male who arrived at the shelter on March 20 from San Francisco. He was put in quarantine on March 30 as he awaited his test results. 

Those who have symptoms, are awaiting test results, or have tested positive will stay in isolation spaces the City of Portland is running in its Family Shelter buildings.

In addition to running the Expo, the city continues to operate the Oxford Street Shelter, the Family Shelter for families, and the isolation shelter spaces located in some of the Family Shelter buildings despite City-wide staffing challenges in light of the pandemic.

The city did say it is struggling to get shelter guests to take the pandemic seriously. Some are not wanting to stay in quarantine spaces and are leaving when told not to. Some are leaving in between staff’s 30 minute checks.

Maine CDC will begin distributing its third shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Strategic National Stockpile on Friday. Maine CDC is working on where to distribute the new PPE across Maine's health care system so as to maximize the benefit to the state as a whole.

There are 124 available intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Maine, out of a total of 272. There are 271 available ventilators in Maine, out of a total of 348. There are also about 128 available alternative ventilators in Maine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has authorized states to utilize in times of emergency such as this.

Dr. Shah said based on cellphone data, there's evidence of less people traveling from their homes (and more social distancing) in Cumberland County. Although it's too early to truly tell, Dr. Shah said that's a good sign that people are observing the distancing guidelines that have been outlined by Maine CDC and Governor Janet Mills.

When asked about loss of taste or smell and whether these symptoms connect to COVID-19, Dr. Shah said there's no clear answer. He said these symptoms are common with many respiratory illnesses and that more scientific research is necessary.

Tuesday, March 31

On Tuesday Gov. Janet Mills announced a series of new mandates to protect public health and safety in the face of COVID-19, including a "Stay Healthy at Home" directive that requires people living in Maine to stay at home at all times unless for an essential job or an essential personal reason, such as obtaining food, medicine, health care, or other necessary purposes.

One was a woman in her 80s from York County, the other was a woman in her 80s from Kennebec County. The three deaths announced prior to Tuesday were a man in his 80s, a woman in her 80s, and a man in his 60s, all from Cumberland County.

There are now 303 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state. Of the 303 people who have tested positive, 57 have been hospitalized at some point during the course of their illness.

Two additional pediatric patients have tested positive. Neither of those patients is school age, according to the Maine CDC.

68 people in Maine have tested positive and made a full recovery.

Maine CDC Director, Dr. Nirav Shah, said one person who spent time at the Oxford Street Shelter in Portland has tested positive, and that more information will be forthcoming. He said the city of Portland has been preparing for the possibility of a case of COVID-19 in a person experiencing homelessness, in this case a person who had spent time in a shelter. Dr. Shah said the Maine CDC is now taking the plans they've developed and shifting to the response phase.

Community transmission has been identified in Cumberland County and York County. Kennebec, Androscoggin, and Penobscot all have more than 10 cases and the Maine CDC is currently investigating whether community transmission has occurred in those counties as well. The standard for labeling community transmission in Maine is the county must have at least 10 cases, 25 percent of which do not have a known link to another case of confirmed COVID-19, either through travel or through direct interaction

Credit: NCM

Maine CDC is continuing to move forward with its plan to send samples to an outside commercial laboratory. These are samples that have been awaiting testing at the Maine CDC laboratory but because of Maine CDC's focus on the highest-risk individuals had not been tested.

There are currently 600 backlogged tests in Maine and, according to Dr. Shah, these are all low-risk individuals. For individuals in the highest-risk categories in Maine, Dr. Shah there is no backlog of tests at the Maine CDC laboratory in Augusta.

Dr. Shah said the Maine CDC expects to receive an additional machine for testing in 1 to 2 weeks. After it arrives, it will take the Maine CDC laboratory several days to calibrate until it can be integrated into Maine CDC's workflow.

Maine CDC received a third shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the federal government Monday evening. Maine CDC is currently conducting inventory on the new shipment and when that's finished, Maine CDC will begin distributing it.

As of Tuesday morning, there are about 90 intensive care unit beds available out of a total of 190. There are about 262 available ventilators available, out of a total of about 330. There are also about 89 alternative ventilators available, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has authorized states to utilize in times of emergency such as this.

Dr. Shah said Maine CDC is asking hospitals to report even more information to them on a daily basis.

Dr. Shah also noted that many of the outlets Mainers had previously used to provide a settling feeling in their lives - whether it be going to church, going out to eat, going to a child's sporting event, etc. - are no longer available. He encourages people to still settle parts of their lives, and others' lives, that may feel unsettled.

"I ask everyone to look around to see what they can do to settle certain parts of their life that might otherwise feel unsettled right now. Each of us have a role to play and each of us can do something to help out this greater effort, but we can also do things to introduce some calm, some order, and some settling into our lives right now," Dr. Shah said. "We recognize this situation is challenging but altogether we, each of us, can do our part to introduce that degree of settling into our lives."

Monday, March 30

The Maine CDC announced 275 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state. Of the 275 people who've tested positive, 49 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness.

On Friday, March 27, there were 168 confirmed cases. In three days, Maine's case total has risen by more than 100.

"This increase that we've seen is concerning to us," Maine CDC Director, Dr. Nirav Shah, said. "It is also consistent with increases that other states have seen at their similar point in the outbreak, as well as largely consistent with the outbreaks that are now occurring in northern New England in particular."

Credit: NCM

43 Maine cases have been health care workers. Dr. Shah said investigations into their exposures at their respective facilities is ongoing.

41 people in Maine have recovered from the virus and been released from isolation. The Maine CDC also reported more than 6,000 negative tests across the state.

The Maine CDC is investigating whether or not the 12 cases in Penobscot County are a result of community transmission. Community transmission has been identified in Cumberland County and York County so far.

Dr. Shah said the Maine CDC is aware of additional cases of COVID-19 in community settings other than OceanView at Falmouth, a retirement community where six cases have been reported. 

Dr. Shah said he's aware of three cases at a group home in Freeport, a case at a group home in Leeds, and two more separate cases at separate long term care facilities. Dr. Shah said recent data suggests that when COVID-19 is introduced in these types of communities, it can spread very quickly.

Dr. Shah said when the Maine CDC first becomes aware of a case in one of these facilities, they tell the facility what they know and begin an investigation. Then the Maine CDC asks the facility to notify all of their stakeholders, including the members and staff at the community and their family members. The Maine CDC also asks management at these communities to consider restricting or disallowing visitors and to implement a system to check for symptoms among the rest of the community members. Lastly, the Maine CDC asks them to implement health precautions.

Dr. Shah said the Maine CDC has recently started working with the Division of Licensing and Certification (DLC) of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), to ensure these facilities are complying with Maine CDC recommendations.

"One of the things we know about congregate living settings is that, in many cases, the individuals who live there are particularly at risk, partly because of the physical design of these facilities and also because they may also be older individuals or individuals with preexisting or chronic health conditions," Dr. Shah said. "This partnership between the Maine CDC and DLC really is designed to ensure that facilities have all the support they need to keep their residents safe."

The Maine CDC said it aims to continue to build out additional laboratory testing capacity within the Maine CDC's laboratory. Dr. Shah said the Maine CDC is purchasing a new piece of equipment that uses different chemicals, which he hopes will diversify the Maine CDC's testing portfolio.

Dr. Shah said the second shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the U.S. strategic stockpile arrived a few days ago and is now in the process of being distributed, including: 60,000 N95 masks; 143,00 procedure masks; 31,000 face shields; 25,000 surgical gowns; 1,500 coveralls; and 184,000 gloves.  He said by Monday evening, Maine CDC will likely receive a third shipment of PPE. He said it may be the last PPE shipment the Maine CDC receives for a long time. The Maine CDC is currently exploring other options to acquire PPE.

"While these additional allotments of PPE from the strategic national stockpile may help alleviate some of the short term needs that we know are out there, that the health care workers who I've mentioned are contending with...it's difficult to say whether it will be enough. As you noted, Maine has received a paltry amount of PPE in comparison to what we've asked for. These additional allotments will help us but they still remain insufficient. We are still trying to work with the federal government to determine what other allotments may be made. The federal government, as is the state of Maine, is also trying to increase production," Dr. Shah said. "Our view within the state of Maine is we also have to look at other strategies."

There are 92 available intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Maine, out of a total of 176. There are 253 available ventilators, out of a total of 309.

Dr. Shah took a moment Monday to thank the state's health care workers, many of whom are working long and exhausting days.

"COVID-19 has had a real, emotional, and personal impact on many of us," Dr. Shah said. "I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that these folks who are racing to the front lines every single day while many of the rest of us are attempting to stay home, they themselves are grappling with that same personal and emotional impact even as they are showing up to work every day to keep people safe."

Sunday, March 29

The Maine CDC announced on its website there are now 253 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state.

The Maine CDC reported a confirmed case in Somerset County, which now means there is at least one confirmed case in 12 of Maine's 16 counties.

The Maine CDC also reported the second and third deaths of individuals who tested positive. The individuals were a woman in her 80s from Cumberland County and a man in his 60s from Cumberland County. Both individuals were hospitalized at the time of their deaths.

The first death of an individual in Maine who tested positive for COVID-19 was reported on Friday. That individual was a man in his 80s from Cumberland County.

Governor Janet Mills Sunday that the man in his 60s from Cumberland County who died was a long-time employee of the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT). Governor Mills and MaineDOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note issued the following statements:

“Those who serve the people of Maine in State government are not only dedicated public servants, they are family. Today, I am saddened to say that we have lost a member of that family,” Gov. Mills said “I am grateful for his years of service to our State, and, on behalf of the people of Maine, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones, as well as our faithful employees at the Maine Department of Transportation and throughout State government during this difficult time. Please know that we share in your grief, and we support you.”

“Our entire MaineDOT family mourns this tragic loss,” Van Note said. “Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to our colleague’s family and friends, and we remain forever grateful for his service to the State of Maine.”

Due to privacy laws, Maine CDC is limited in releasing further details. However, based on the employee’s travel history, and the fact that he did not return to work after his vacation, Maine CDC reports that risk to other MaineDOT employees is extremely low.

Hannaford released a statement Sunday, saying two employees who work at different locations have tested positive for COVID-19. Spokesman Eric Blom said in an abundance of caution, Hannaford conducted a voluntary deep and thorough cleaning at each store. Both stores remain open.

Credit: NCM

41 people in Maine have made full recoveries after testing positive. 

Avangrid, parent company of Central Maine Power, release a statement saying they were donating 3000 N95 respirators and 3000 masks to the Maine Emergency Management Agency Monday morning. The donation will help in a state that is currently struggling with personal protection equipment (PPEs).

Saturday, March 28

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah held an audio-only teleconference call with the press at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Maine CDC now says there are 211 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine, and 3,394 negative tests. At least three dozen of the positive cases are healthcare workers. 

Dr. Shah said there was an increase of 43 cases since Friday and that the increase is concerning, however, it is consistent with the spread of the virus in terms of both numbers and geography.

Dr. Shah emphasized the importance and bravery of health care workers who are on the frontlines fighting COVID-19. 

"While millions of people are staying home, they are doing the opposite," he said. "For that, I commend them for their heroism."

He said it's hard to determine whether health care workers are being infected with the virus through community transmission outside of the hospital or while working inside the hospital. Dr. Shah said that is part of their investigation. He referenced a study in Italy, which said the rate of infection for health care workers is quite high. 

Dr. Shah also said there have been a total of 41 hospitalizations, but explained that is not the number of current hospitalizations, which the Maine CDC is trying to get a count on, but the number of people who have at any point during their illness been hospitalized. 

The Maine CDC's lab in Augusta is in full operation this weekend and is working to reduce the number of outstanding tests. They are also working with the commercial lab LabCorp to reduce the backlog of tests. Approximately 800 tests are awaiting results. 

As volume has increased, the testing return time has slowed, he said.

Dr. Shah said they have ordered a new testing platform that will be available soon. 

When asked about the accuracy of negative results, Dr. Shah explained that negative test results mean there were no particles detected in the swab sample, so a negative test says a lot about the specimen, but nothing about the patient or public health risk. Regardless of a negative test, Dr. Shah says, the Maine CDC advises staying home. 

PORTLAND PRESS HERALD GRAPHS

Shaw's Supermarkets announced an associate at the Congress St. location has tested positive for the coronavirus. A spokesperson said the stores are strictly adhering to CDC guidelines to keep their customers and their employees safe. 

Strange story out of Vinalhaven. The Knox County Sheriff's Department says coronavirus concerns may have led a group of gun-toting people used a cut down tree to block a driveway, forcing the resident to self quarantine. The department is investigating. 

A heartbreaking messages from one woman who is struggling while her dad is suffering with complications from coronavirus, COVID-19. She implores the public to take the virus seriously. Her dad is in a medically induced coma. 

One of the challenges first responders face while the coronavirus outbreak continues, how to treat emergency calls. Rumford is now scaling back how they respond to 9-1-1 calls. NEWS CENTER Maine's Shannon Moss touched on the challenges first responders face, earlier this week.

RELATED: Fire Departments/EMS in Maine face big obstacles amid COVID-19

Friday, March 27

The Maine CDC announced the first death of an individual in the state who tested positive for COVID-19. The man was in his 80s and was from Cumberland County.

There are now 168 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Maine. There are confirmed cases in 11 of Maine's 16 counties.

30 people in Maine are hospitalized due to the virus.

"The time now is to start taking preparations, making sure that everyone in your family has a plan to stay safe, that you have medications on hand in case you need to be quarantined for a period," Maine CDC Director, Dr. Nirav Shah, said.

Dr. Shah, said he continues to call on the federal government to send more personal protective equipment (PPE) from the U.S. strategic stockpile to Maine.

President Trump signed the record $2.2 trillion stimulus bill as well as issued the Defense Production Act so that General Motors can start manufacturing ventilators

FLATTENING THE CURVE

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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