Two more Mainers die as number of coronavirus cases reaches 344


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Maine jumped by 41 overnight to 344 total cases and two more Mainers passed away as a result of the virus, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The two Mainers who passed away from the virus were both women in their 80s from Cumberland County, and both were hospitalized at the time of their death. These two deaths bring the state to seven total coronavirus-related deaths.

During his press comments delivered Wednesday, Dr. Shah reported the state has recorded a confirmed case in Hancock County, meaning the virus has spread to 13 of 16 counties.

To date, 63 individuals have been hospitalized at some point during their COVID-19 illness and about 80 Mainers have recovered and been released from isolation.  

Dr. Shah announced that Maine CDC has become aware of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 tied to the Oxford Street shelter in Portland. Stopping the spread of the virus in congregate settings remains a top priority for the Maine CDC.

He also noted the epidemiology team at Maine CDC continues to investigate if community transmission has occurred in Androscoggin, Kennebec and Penobscot counties, which yesterday he reported have each recorded 10 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19, one of the two criteria used to determine the presence of community transmission. To date, Maine CDC has confirmed community transmission in Cumberland and York counties.

Dr. Shah spent time during the press conference linking the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) with rapid response testing. The state has supplies on hand to conduct 4,000 COVID-19 tests. At least 8,400 tests conducted in Maine thus far have returned as negative.

But Dr. Shah noted that rapid diagnostic testing will enable the state to conserve PPE. In an abundance of caution, health care workers use PPE while treating suspected cases of COVID-19, but if those tests come back negative, the PPE is wasted on someone who does not have the virus.

“If we can shorten the amount of time between when a patient comes in with signs and symptoms and when they get a negative test, we can reduce that PPE usage,” Dr. Shah said, noting that rapid diagnostic testing is a PPE conservation strategy.

Fortunately, Maine will soon assume possession of 15 of the new rapid diagnostic tests manufactured by the medical devices company Abbott. Each kit can perform up to 100 tests, meaning the addition of this equipment enables the state to perform 2,400 rapid response tests.

Dr. Shah also reported that there are 348 ventilators statewide of which 271 are available, as well as 128 alternative ventilators. There are 272 intensive care unit beds statewide of which 124 are now available. These numbers continue to increase, Dr. Shah said, as more hospitals report their on-hand resources.

In addition, after closing on March 25 due to an employee testing positive for coronavirus, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services office in Lewiston has reopened.


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