The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 698 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, who delivered comments to the press Monday afternoon alongside Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The total number of confirmed cases grew by 65 overnight, a sharp increase that Dr. Shah attributed to three known outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Maine.
Of the 65 new cases reported Monday, 48 correspond to outbreaks of the virus at three long-term care facilities; the Tall Pines facility in Belfast, the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough and the Augusta Center for Health and Rehabilitation. Of the 48 new cases tied to long-term care facilities, 35 infections belong to residents and 13 to health care workers.
At Tall Pines in Belfast there are 23 individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, including 19 residents and four staff members. Two of the state’s 19 total coronavirus-related deaths are associated with Tall Pines.
There are 32 total cases of the virus associated with the Maine Veterans’ Home. Six of these cases belong to facility staff while the other 26 infections were contracted by residents. The rehabilitation facility in Augusta accounts for 55 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine, 41 from residents and 14 from staff. In total, 110 health care workers have contracted the virus in Maine, though not all of these cases belong to workers at congregate care facilities.
Dr. Shah stressed that the high number of cases does not translate to a high number of people being critically ill, and stated the bulk of the individuals who tested positive at these facilities are asymptomatic. Universal testing of all staff and residents is customary for Maine CDC when dealing with an outbreak in congregate settings. Shah said his staff will continue to work closely with these facilities and that they remain a top priority for his agency because they treat medically vulnerable populations who live in close quarters and interact frequently.
Maine CDC is actively working to fulfill 116 orders of personal protective equipment (PPE), including 77 orders to congregate care facilities. The Augusta rehabilitation facility received an order of PPE on April 10 while the Tall Pines and Maine Veterans’ Home facilities received PPE shipments on April 6 and April 9.
Dr. Shah also provided an update Monday on the availability of vital health care assets throughout the state. Maine has 314 beds in intensive care units of which 158 are available, 328 ventilators of which 283 remain available, and 234 available alternative ventilators.
In addition, Shah provided information on the amount of PPE Maine has on-hand and ready to distribute to health care facilities across the state, including 48,000 N95 masks, 45,000 surgical masks, 13,000 face shields, 92,000 gloves, 1,000 disposable protective suits, 19,000 surgical gowns and 186 coveralls.
To date, 124 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point during their COVID-19 illness and 61 individuals are currently hospitalized. Thirty-nine of these individuals are in regular patient beds while 22 are being treated in intensive care units. Nine Mainers are currently on ventilators and 273 people have fully recovered.
At Monday’s press conference, DHHS commissioner Jeanne Lambrew highlighted a spike in telemedicine use among Mainers since Governor Janet Mills took executive action to loosen restrictions surrounding telehealth services in the wake of the outbreak. Lambrew stated that, in the past six months, the state was receiving about 100 claims per week submitted through Medicaid for telehealth services. In the last week of March, Maine received 3,600 claims for telehealth services, a more than 30-fold increase.
Dr. Shah ended Monday’s press conference by providing a public service announcement on behalf of line crews for electric utilities that are working to restore power to Mainers’ homes and businesses after last week’s heavy snowstorm, as well as the windstorm moving into parts of Maine on Monday. Shah said Mainers may experience longer restoration times because utility crews are practicing social distancing themselves and sked Mainers to give line workers the space they need to do their jobs and restore power as quickly as possible.
During a Monday radio interview on the WGAN Morning News, Dr. Shah said he did not expect a limited reopening of Maine’s economy by May or June.
“The concern with all of this reopening is that if we do it too quickly, all we will see is the same spike we would have seen a month ago, but just delayed by a month,” he said. “We won’t have actually protected anybody in the public health world, we wouldn’t have actually kept our friends, parents, neighbors safe, we’ll just have delayed things.”