Coronavirus rises to 616 confirmed cases, two more deaths

Two more people have died and 30 more were confirmed infected with the novel coronavirus on Saturday morning, for a total of 616 known cases and 19 deaths, the Maine Center for Disease Control said.

CDC spokesman Robert Long said the deceased were a man in his 80s from York County and a man in his 70s from Cumberland County. On Twitter, Nirav Shah, the CDC director, said the losses were “somber note” to the weekend’s update.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, claimed its 17th life in Maine on Friday, and logged its 586th recorded case. Global deaths passed 100,000 the same day, and on Saturday had reached nearly 105,000, with 1.7 million cases.

As of Saturday, United States surpassed Italy to become the country with the most confirmed deaths from coronavirus, with nearly 19,000 nationwide. There are over 500,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., also more than any other country.

Maine CDC officials warn, however, that cases are likely being undercounted because of a lack of testing supplies. The public health agency this week was counting on a shipment of new tests from Abbott Laboratories, which is manufacturing 50,000 a day in Scarborough, but ended up receiving far fewer than expected.

On Friday Maine also saw a drop in active cases – that is, total cases minus deaths and recoveries – falling to 323 from 342. That number was back to 341 on Saturday.

But Shah has noted that epidemiologists look at periods much longer than a day to track the progress of outbreaks, and on Friday he said there weren’t any conclusions to be drawn from the drop.

“We can hope that these signs suggest we are in the process of flattening the curve,” Shah said, referring to a term for slowing the virus’s spread so that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. “But we don’t know. It is too early to tell.”

Today’s update starts on a somber note: @MEPublicHealth is aware of 2 additional individuals w/#COVID19 who have passed away. Overall, there are 616 cases, an increase of 30 since yesterday. 256 folks have recovered, an increase of 10.

— Nirav D. Shah (@nirav_mainecdc) April 11, 2020

Speaking at a briefing with the CDC on Friday, Gov. Janet Mills said it was too early to lift social distancing restrictions. The same day, Mills announced that she was moving primary elections to July 14 from June 9, and was also considering an executive order to curb evictions during the pandemic.

On Saturday, Amtrak’s Downeaster rail line, which links Brunswick to Boston, announced it would temporarily suspend all service because of the coronavirus. The move came after an announcement last week that service would be limited to one trip per day.

COVID-19 continued to spread through Maine’s senior communities this week.

In Belfast, Tall Pines Retirement and Healthcare Community reported 22 cases on Friday, up from 13 on Thursday. The Maine CDC said it had tested all employees and residents and is conducting an investigation into the facility, which has 400 residents and 200 staff.

On Friday evening, OceanView at Falmouth reported its 11th case, and urged community members to take precautions such as wearing a mask, “stringent hand washing” and staying at home as much as possible.

“Per the CDC, due to community transmission it is no longer possible to definitively determine the source of exposure,” a statement from OceanView spokeswoman Linda Varrell said. “We continue to follow CDC guidance and urge individuals to take the proper precautions to minimize their risk of exposure and prevent further spread.”

In Saturday’s CDC statistics, 114 people had been hospitalized and 256 had recovered, cumulatively, over the course of the outbreak.

Cumberland and York Counties are still far and away the leaders in cases, with evidence of community transmission. Cumberland had 284 confirmed cases on Saturday, and York had 143.

The virus has reached every county but Piscataquis, the least populous, but public health officials urge everyone in Maine to follow social distancing measures, wash their hands, and only go outside for essential activities such as work, groceries, dog-walking and physical exercise.

Among the other counties, there were 27 cases in Androscoggin, two in Aroostook, seven in Franklin, four in Hancock, 31 in Kennebec, 10 in Knox, nine in Lincoln, 13 in Oxford, 34 in Penobscot, 15 in Sagadahoc, six in Somerset, 27 in Waldo and one in Washington.

By age, only 2.4 percent patients were under 20 years old, while 8.6 percent were in their 20s, 10.4 percent in their 30s, 15.6 percent in their 40s, 20.6 percent in their 50s, 18.3 percent in their 60s, 14.3 percent in their 70s, and 9.7 percent 80 and older.

Infection was still roughly equal by sex, with the CDC identifying 51 percent of patients as female.

Maine’s capacity to treat aggressive cases remained steady on Saturday. Long, the CDC spokesman, said the state had 306 total intensive care unit beds, and 154 were available; of 332 total ventilators (a slight increase in recent weeks), 271 were available.

Twenty-one of those ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, Long said. Another 37 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized but not in the ICU.

Maine now also has 232 alternative ventilators approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The CDC does not release numbers of total versus available units of this type.

Easter falls on April 12, this Sunday. With services canceled or moved online because of social distancing restrictions, Mills gave one celebrant permission to move freely: the Easter Bunny.

Gubernatorial executive orders in Maine and around the country this week declared the egg-dispensing rabbit an “essential” worker.

“Recognizing that friendly magical creatures, like the Easter Bunny, are essential to the health and happiness of Maine children, today I declared them performers of essential services,” Mills said on Twitter Saturday morning. “May this bring hope and happiness to Maine children and families during this difficult time.”

Recognizing that friendly magical creatures, like the Easter Bunny, are essential to the health and happiness of Maine children, today I declared them performers of essential services. May this bring hope and happiness to Maine children and families during this difficult time.

— Governor Janet Mills (@GovJanetMills) April 11, 2020

This story will be updated.

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