As voters lined up at the polls on Tuesday, Maine reported 127 new cases of COVID-19, a record high for one day.
The previous record was 103 cases on Friday, as Maine is seeing a late October/early November surge in cases. Meanwhile, the Maine Correctional Center in Windham on Tuesday reported a major outbreak, 72 cases of COVID-19 among inmates, plus nine staff members. Most of those cases will be added to Wednesday’s case counts, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, although the agency did not have a precise breakdown on how many cases have been previously recorded versus how many will be added on Wednesday. Last week, the Maine Department of Corrections reported a total of 18 cases at the Maine Correctional Center.
The seven-day daily average of new cases continues to soar, and stood at 87.9 on Tuesday, compared to 57 a week ago and 31.9 a month ago. Forty-seven of Tuesday’s cases were in Cumberland County, 15 in Kennebec County and 12 each in both York and Somerset counties. Nationally, COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing, and the United States has reported more than 9 million infections and 230,000 deaths. Maine still has the third-lowest current virus prevalence in the country, with only Hawaii and Vermont having lower COVID-19 rates per capita, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute.
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said in series of tweets on Tuesday that virus trends are going in the wrong direction, including an increase in hospitalizations, wider geographic distribution of cases and a higher percent positive rate.
The seven-day average positivity rate has more than doubled, from 0.48 percent two weeks ago to 1.19 percent on Tuesday. The positivity rate is the percent of COVID-19 tests that have been returned positive. A lower percentage is better because it gives public health workers a better chance to control the spread of the virus by isolating those who are contagious and quarantining close contacts. The national average is about 7 percent.
“Taken together, these data are concerning,” Shah said. “Where we go from here is up to all of us. Please, do your part.”
Thirty-one people were hospitalized in Maine for COVID-19 on Tuesday, with 10 in intensive care.
The recent spike caused the Mills administration over the weekend to indefinitely delay the opening of bars – which were set to open on Monday – and to impose other restrictions, such as reducing indoor gatherings to 50 people or fewer.
Indoor gatherings had been expanded on Oct. 13 to 100 people or 50 percent of permitted occupancy – whichever was fewer – but the limit has been reduced back down to 50 people, regardless of capacity. Outdoor gathering limits remain at 100 people, and occupancy limits for retail remain at five people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space.
Also, because of rising case numbers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, visitors to Maine from those states are now no longer exempt from Maine’s requirement that visitors quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to the state or produce a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to arrival. Massachusetts is also on the watch list for having its exemption removed because of rising cases there.
There were no additional deaths on Tuesday.
Gov. Janet Mills said during a media briefing on Monday that she is “deeply sorry” for having to postpone bar reopenings and dial back other reopening measures. But Mills said it was a necessary measure to try to control the spread of the virus.
“We cannot have a healthy economy without a healthy population,” Mills said.
A new outbreak was reported on Monday, at Deeper Life Assembly of God in Pittsfield. But Shah has said more of the cases in recent weeks are occurring from community spread and are not tied to specific outbreaks.
“Case investigations continue to indicate widespread community transmission,” said Robert Long, Maine CDC spokesman.