In an effort to protect Mainers, Governor Mills has expanded her executive order mandating face coverings, and masks are now required statewide. Maine has seen outbreaks in a number of locations in recent weeks, and Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control, has expressed deep concern over the potential for infections spiraling out of control as the state heads into the winter months. Masks, social distancing, and hand washing remain the most important steps Mainers can take to protect themselves, their families, and the community, according to experts.
Experts urge Mainers to avoid indoor gatherings with those outside the household, and to be as careful as possible when near others, even outdoors. Since May, the average age of individuals diagnosed with the new coronavirus has lowered from age 51 to age 40, and Maine has had new cases in all of Maine’s 16 counties in the past two weeks.
Black Mainers, who make up only 1.6% of Maine’s population, count for 19% of the state’s cases. Over the past week this rate reflects a very slight dip of 1% in what has been a startling disparity between how the virus impacts Mainers according to race, with Maine continuing to lead the nation in having the greatest disparity in infection rates between white and Black or African American residents. Frequently cited reasons for the disparity along racial lines includes poverty, with people of color forced to take public transportation, and occupy front-line jobs others will not fill, where social distancing is either very difficult, or impossible. Nationwide, Black people account for 20% of COVID-19 deaths where race is known.
Cumberland County continues to have the highest number of total cases in Maine (2,361), with York County moved up to second place (1,251) from third place, and Androscoggin County now third (780). The case rate per 10K people in Cumberland County is 80.4, in Androscoggin County 72.4, and in York County 60.7.
Outbreaks are reported in a number of locations in York County, including Sanford High School with 18 cases, and Pinnacle Healthcare with 16 cases; Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, with 18 cases, most likely the result of carpooling; 24 cases at the ND Paper Mill in Rumford; Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro (8 cases); Woodland Pulp Paper Mill in Baileyville, with 19 cases; and Little Lambs Learning Center in Springvale, with 12 cases, among numerous other outbreaks. Primary sources of the recent outbreaks may have been a wedding and a funeral where guidance from the CDC was not observed.
Overall, as of October 6, Maine, adjusted for population, ranks 2nd lowest in the nation in terms of positive cases; 4th lowest in the nation in terms of deaths; the lowest in terms of patients ever-hospitalized; and 9th highest in the percentage of people who have recovered out of 36 states reporting.
To date, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed over 200K people in the United States alone, including 142 in Maine. The Governor and Dr. Shah urge Mainers to be extra cautious as more activities head indoors for the winter. Live public singing and open dance floors are not allowed, as these activities are believed to spread the virus.