On Thursday, March 19, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC), informed the public that there are now 52 cases of Covid-19 in Maine, which is an increase of 10 cases over a 24 hour period. Of those cases, 42 are confirmed, 10 are presumptive, four people are hospitalized, and one person has fully recovered. There is now one case in Hancock county in addition to Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot, York. Nationwide, 40% of those hospitalized are between the ages of 20-40.
Social distancing continues to be one of the surest and best ways of protecting the health of individuals and the community. Dr. Shah explained that new national data is showing that 40% of hospitalized cases are young people between the ages of 20 and 40. “The young are not immune or invincible. We must all take recommendations for social distancing,” he said.
Addressing youth, Dr. Shah said, “Do your civic duty, and practice social distancing … so you don’t end up hospitalized … and so you reduce the likelihood of picking up the virus and passing it to your grandparents and others who are older and more vulnerable than yourself.”
In addition to allowing individuals to avoid catching the virus from others, social distancing will slow the spread of the virus, and allow hospitals and suppliers of medical equipment to keep up with demand. Community transmission – where the source of the virus cannot be traced to out of state travel or contact with someone who has traveled out of state – has been identified in Cumberland County at this point, and Dr. Shah noted he expects to see community transmission in other counties as well. Based on 100 years of public health data, social distancing is key to controlling the speed of transmission.
The virus is spread through close contact with someone who is carrying it. Close contact entails being within 2 meters (6 feet) of someone for at least 15 minutes. The carrier may not show symptoms at all. In fact, children rarely have intense symptoms. However, sneezes, coughs, and even talking spreads droplets in the air that can then be inhaled. At this time there is no evidence that the virus is spread through food.
The good news is that simple, everyday basic cleaning products kill the virus – fancy soap is not needed. The trick is washing thoroughly and often and exerting pressure on the hands to create friction. Dr. Shah has said before,“Imagine you have just been slicing a big bag of hot peppers, and now you have to take your contact lenses out. That’s how hard you need to wash your hands!”
There are still many unknowns about the new virus, such as how long it can live on surfaces in a house, and what dose of the virus is needed to cause infection. The virus is known to live hours in a science lab – some say days. Research is underway to learn more about the particulars of Covid-19, Dr. Shah has said.
The Governor issued two statewide orders March 18 designed to enforce social distancing: All non-work gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. All dine-in restaurants and bars statewide are ordered to close until midnight on March 31.
One important new measure that was taken by Governor Janet Mills today addresses the widespread shortage of hand sanitizing products. She is allowing pharmacies to make and compound their own hand sanitizing product and make them available for sale at their establishments.
Dr. Shah encouraged everyone to find ways to combat loneliness – which can also harm one’s health. So connect through phone, wave from across the street or out the window at neighbors, start a virtual group. And stay tuned to Amjambo Africa. We are updating new material every day in multiple languages.