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CDC reports one more death, a Waldo County woman 'over 80'

By Rob Wolfe, Portland Press Herald Staff Writer | May 09, 2020

Augusta — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported one death and 34 additional cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The deceased is a woman over 80 from Waldo County, CDC spokesman Robert Long said.

The report brings Maine’s totals to 64 deaths and 1,408 cases over the course of the pandemic, as the state’s leaders announce an accelerated schedule to reopen the economy. That case figure includes 1,287 confirmed cases and 121 probable cases among people who have symptoms and have either tested positive on an antibody test or had close contact with a known case.

Subtracting numbers of people who have recovered — 857 — and died, there were 487 active cases on Saturday.

Maine’s case load has increased slowly but steadily in the past weeks, leading the state’s leaders to unveil a quicker, but still gradual plan to reopen the economy.

Gov. Janet Mills this week announced an accelerated reopening of some businesses in 12 rural counties, together with a partnership with Westbrook-based Idexx Laboratories to roughly triple Maine’s testing capacity.

The veterinary testing company recently received federal approval to use coronavirus tests that it developed on its own, and the company says it can provide Maine with the materials for 5,000 additional tests each week.

The dramatic increase in supplies may allow health officials to lift limits on testing that kept many likely cases from being officially confirmed, helping the state to reopen with the expectation that suspected cases can quickly be confirmed and isolated.

In her noon briefing Friday, Mills announced that retail stores and fitness centers can reopen to in-store customers, with some restrictions, in 12 more rural counties that have seen less transmission: Aroostook, Piscataquis, Washington, Hancock, Somerset, Franklin, Oxford, Kennebec, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc.

On May 18, restaurants and campgrounds in those counties may open to in-person patrons as long as they maintain physical distancing and other safety guidelines.

Early Friday afternoon, attorney Stephen Smith of Lipman & Katz, Augusta, announced a lawsuit filed against Mills earlier that day by nine Maine businesses, saying her restrictions have unfairly affected small businesses and demanding a quicker end to the shutdown.

The suit includes a variety of businesses — a construction company, a wedding disc jockey, an antiques dealer, a tour operator, a hair salon operator, a securities consultant and a surgeon — who accuse Mills of creating regulations that are “arbitrary and capricious” and “favor big businesses over Maine’s lifeblood: its small businesses.”

Attorney General Aaron Frey on Friday said Mill’s executive orders were “carefully crafted and have been reviewed and updated in order to protect Mainers’ health during the COVID-19 pandemic,” and he promised to “vigorously defend the constitutionality” of the plan.

With several weeks of data under their belts, states and nearby Canadian provinces are beginning to compare notes on their pandemic strategies. Attention has focused on neighboring New Brunswick, which has recorded no deaths and, at this point, has only two active cases of COVID-19.

Experts attribute the province’s success to early action by its leaders, strict border closures, near universal compliance from citizens, a geographic advantage from its relative isolation, and a healthy dose of luck.

Still, Maine, with its rural composition and distance from major population centers such as Boston and New York, has seen lower infection rates than most other U.S. states.

The Maine CDC also periodically reports how many negative tests have occurred, giving some context to the rising numbers of confirmed cases. At the last update, on May 6, 22,092 people had tested negative.

Maine’s hospital load held steady on Saturday. Forty-three people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, with 22 in intensive care and 10 on ventilators. There were 141 ICU beds available of a total 304, and 220 ventilators available of a total 317. Maine also had 413 alternative ventilators approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

County by county, there were 82 cases in Androscoggin County on Saturday, six in Aroostook, 685 in Cumberland, 31 in Franklin, 10 in Hancock, 109 in Kennebec, 18 in Knox, 15 in Lincoln, 17 in Oxford, 89 in Penobscot, one in Piscataquis, 20 in Sagadahoc, 17 in Somerset, 49 in Waldo, two in Washington and 256 in York.

By age, only 2.4% of cases were in people under 20, whereas 10.9% were in their 20s, 11.3% were in their 30s, 15.4% were in their 40s, 19.7% were in their 50s, 16.2% were in their 60s, 12.3% were in their 70s, and 11.7% were 80 or older.

Women made up 53.6% of cases, and two cases, or 0.1%, were listed as “unknown” in gender. All others were listed as male by the CDC.

Health officials are also now reporting case breakdowns by race and ethnicity.

The vast majority were white — 829 — but there were also two patients listed as “American Indian or Alaskan Native,” 20 as “Asian or Pacific Islander,” 73 as “Black or African American,” two as “two or more races,” 26 as “other,” and 302 patients did not disclose their race.

By ethnicity, 32 patients were listed as “Hispanic,” 781 were “not Hispanic,” and 441 did not disclose.

Around the world, there were more than 4 million cases and 277,000 deaths from coronavirus as of Saturday afternoon. The United States still leads in both statistics, with 1.3 million cases and nearly 79,000 deaths.



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