Maine recorded two deaths and 42 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, an increase of more than 80 cases over the weekend, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control.
A woman in her 80s and a man in his 60s, both from Cumberland County, are the second and third people to die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the Maine CDC said Sunday.
The man was a longtime employee of the Maine Department of Transportation, the agency said in a news release Sunday afternoon. The woman has not been identified.
Our entire MaineDOT family mourns this tragic loss, DOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note said in the release. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to our colleagues family and friends, and we remain forever grateful for his service to the State of Maine.
The DOT employee recently had gone on vacation, the release said – it did not say where – and didn’t return to work since then, so danger of infection among his co-workers is low, officials said.
Those who serve the people of Maine in State government are not only dedicated public servants, they are family. Today, I am saddened to say that we have lost a member of that family, Gov. Janet Mills said in the release. I am grateful for his years of service to our State, and, on behalf of the people of Maine, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones, as well as our faithful employees at the Maine Department of Transportation and throughout State government during this difficult time. Please know that we share in your grief, and we support you.
Maine reported its first fatality on Friday – a Cumberland County man in his 80s whom authorities have not named. Forty-one people had recovered as of Sunday.
As of late morning Sunday, the virus, which is particularly dangerous to older people and those with compromised immune systems, had reached 12 of Maine’s 16 counties.
Cumberland County still led in case numbers, with 142, followed by York County, with 47. The Maine CDC has observed community transmission in both counties.
Public health officials are warning all Mainers, however, to take precautions, even if cases haven’t been officially diagnosed in their counties yet.
Somerset County on Sunday saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. There were also eight cases in Androscoggin County, 10 in Kennebec, four in Knox, five in Lincoln, nine in Oxford, seven in Sagadahoc and two each in Waldo and Franklin.
Forty-four percent of recorded cases were among Mainers 60 and older, a higher-risk group. Infection rates were nearly equal between males and females.
As coronavirus spreads across the state, the Maine CDC is trying to acquire the medicine and equipment needed to treat patients and keep health workers safe.
A shipment of chemicals for testing recently arrived enough for 3,000 patients but even more will be needed, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said last week.
Maine has 164 intensive care beds total around the state, and 90 were available on Saturday, a CDC spokesman said. The state has 311 ventilators, which are needed for extreme cases where patients are unable to breathe on their own, and 242 were available Saturday.
Shah has cautioned that a sharp rise in cases over a day is not long-term enough for epidemiologists to draw conclusions about a trend in an outbreak. Still, he said in a Twitter post that Saturday’s 43-case increase was “concerning.”
As of Saturday morning, @MEPublicHealth is reporting 211 individuals with #COVID19 statewide, an increase of 43 since yesterday. This is concerning and drives home the fact that #coronavirus is circulating in #Maine. https://t.co/UqG3t2LWHF
— Nirav D. Shah (@nirav_mainecdc) March 28, 2020
Globally, the new coronavirus was approaching 700,000 confirmed cases on Sunday morning. The United States this week became the nation with the most cases, with at least 122,650 as of Sunday morning. More than 2,100 U.S. deaths have been attributed to the virus, according to CDC data.
Maine has taken emergency measures, closing schools and non-essential businesses and encouraging residents to stay indoors, except for such activities as grocery shopping and physical exercise.
As concerns mount about potential transmission of the virus from out-of-state visitors, Maine plans to post messages on electronic sign boards along the turnpike that direct people coming from areas with high infection rates such as New York to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.
It is not clear how state authorities will enforce that order.
This story will be updated.
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