By Abigail Nelson
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah reported on April 29 that Maine has had 52 deaths related to COVID-19 and 1,056 positive cases. 16 new positive cases were reported Wednesday the 29th. Out of those positive cases, 161 have been hospitalized at one point. Currently there are 32 people hospitalized for COVID-19, 17 of whom are in intensive care. In addition, a total of 247 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since the initial outbreak. Not included in these numbers are eight workers at Tyson Food, a poultry processing plant in Portland, as well as 20 additional cases at the Hope House in Bangor. Universal testing has been recommended at both sites.
The data on cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases by race and ethnicity has now been released. This data states that out of the confirmed COVID-19 cases one has been American Indian or Alaskan Native, 13 have been Asian or Pacific Islander, 41 have been Black or African American, 731 have been White, two have been two or more races, 18 have been other, and 250 individuals chose not to disclose their race or ethnicity. In addition, 23 of the cases were Hispanic. According to population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2019, 1.6% of Maine’s population is African American or black, which means that COVID-19 cases have hit the African American and black population in Maine particularly hard, at over double the rate that would normally be expected by population. Nationally, the virus has taken a disproportionately large toll on people of color.
An important part of keeping up with lowering the curve is having enough of the right medical equipment. 1,000 swabs for the physical test were delivered April 29 to hospitals. These swabs will allow healthcare workers to test more people. In addition, 55 healthcare workers have gone through the essential fit training to receive N95 masks. This training was put on by the National Guard.Shah stated that 11,600 pieces of personal protection equipment (PPE) were sent out on the 29th. As of today, the CDC’s supply consists of 108,095 masks, 100,000 surgical masks, 8,000 face shields, 50,000 gloves, and 15,000 gowns. York County donated an additional N95 masks and 600 face shields.
Maine Economic Development Commissioner Heather Johnson joined Dr. Shah to answer questions from the media about what the process of moving forward will look like. “Public safety is our first priority,” Johnson stated. “The economy comes in second.”
Dr. Shah encouraged the public to remember that COVID-19 case numbers are people. “When you get right down to it, those numbers represent an individual, a family, a community member, a spouse, a parent, a family member, or a friend,” said Dr, Shah. “I ask everyone to keep in the back of their mind that although we talk about case counts, every case counts.”