by Sarah Craighead Dedmon
During a daily press conference held Friday, March 20, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Maine has 56 cases of confirmed and presumptive positive COVID-19, a four-case increase over the day before and representing the smallest day-over-day increase this week.
Within Maine, Cumberland County has been the hardest hit, with 21 confirmed and four presumptive cases. Half of Maine's 16 counties have no confirmed cases of the virus, including Washington County. However, officials warn that a lack of available testing kits is likely slowing detection of the virus. On Wednesday, NPR reported a shortage of the physical swabs necessary to make COVID-19 test kits is leading to a bottleneck in production and worldwide shortages.
So far Maine has tested 2,320 people, and 2,264 have tested negative.
Unlike influenza, which typically develops within five days of exposure, symptoms of COVID-19 can take up to 14 days to appear. Fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the primary symptoms, and the CDC warns patients who exhibit difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to rouse or bluish lips or face should seek emergency medical attention.
Cases of COVID-19 were detected in neighboring Penobscot County this week.
In an email, CDC Communications Director Robert Long said that in terms of limiting the spread of the virus, knowing where COVID-positive patients are now is not as important as knowing where they have been. As soon as a patient tests positive, they move into a setting designed to limit community spread, whether that's home isolation or a hospital.
"Our epidemiology staff is working around the clock with patients to trace their past movements for potential exposure," wrote Long.
Even before Governor Janet Mills ordered the closure of all restaurant dining rooms this week, many local restaurants had turned to takeout-only as a way of limiting viral spread. All area schools are closed to classroom instruction, and area students are working on packets sent home by their teachers, sometimes checking in via Google Classroom or email. Local schools have all made arrangements to provide meals to students who need them, either via campus pickup or home delivery.
Statewide, Hannaford supermarkets have implemented new hours to better handle the surge in demand and foot traffic caused by the pandemic. Effective Saturday, March 21, most stores will now be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with a few closing at 8 p.m. on certain days. Hannaford is also offering special shopping hours for customers over 60 years of age, from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of each week.
Most municipal offices have closed to foot traffic and suggest residents phone or email for assistance.
All of Maine's most current coronavirus information is updated daily here https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/airborne/coronavirus.shtml.