Daily Catch

COVID-19 claims two more lives, 537 confirmed infections statewide

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Two more Mainers passed away overnight as a result of COVID-19 according to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The total number of confirmed infections grew to 537 statewide, an increase of 19 cases from Tuesday.

One death comes from a woman in her 80s from Waldo County and the other a man in his 80s from Cumberland County. To date, 101 individuals have been hospitalized during their COVID-19 illnesses in Maine, 187 have recovered and been released from the hospital while 14 people have passed away.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Dr. Shah said the Maine CDC has the ability to return testing specimens within 24 hours of receipt, allowing health care workers to make quick and clear decisions on how to care for patients suspected to have contracted COVID-19.

Available resources within the state’s health care system continue to rise as the Maine CDC gathers additional data from hospitals. There are 305 beds in intensive care units statewide of which 154 are available, 330 ventilators of which 282 are available, 232 alternative ventilators.

Dr. Shah was questioned by the media about a Portland Press Herald report about the Maine CDC being unable to determine how many patients are actively hospitalized statewide due to the virus. Shah said that obtaining data on active hospitalizations has been a problem throughout the country and that it’s difficult for the Maine CDC data to match up with the data hospitals are reporting.

This is because hospitals send the Maine CDC reports that include out-of-state residents who are being treated at Maine hospitals, patients who are waiting for confirmatory testing or are merely suspected of having contracted COVID-19 but haven’t yet received a diagnosis.

Shah said the Maine CDC has to square these cases up with diagnostic data to report them as COVID-19 hospitalizations with confidence. The Maine CDC is currently unable to report this data but is working with the national CDC to develop a uniform reporting process.

He also noted that data related to cumulative hospitalizations was more valuable to the Maine CDC than active hospitalizations on a day-to-day basis.

Dr. Shah took time during Wednesday’s press briefing to address some common myths and misconceptions related to COVID-19. Shah said anecdotally that he has heard friends and others say that taking certain vitamins and minerals can stave off the infection, and that younger, healthy people can’t get sick from the virus.

“Even if you’re a young and healthy person, the virus can still strike you and it can be serious. Irrespective of age, the virus can still strike,” he said.

Shah was also pressed on how the state plans to staff the two alternative care sites that Governor Mills announced Tuesday would be opening up at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland and the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. He said the goal is not to add staffing to these alternative care sites by subtracting staff from existing hospitals, though offered no other specifics on who will be working at these sites.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at Maine Policy Institute and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at Maine Policy. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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