by Sarah Craighead Dedmon
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention today announced active COVID-19 counts have risen to 118, and 11-case increase over the day prior. Seven people have recovered from the illness, making Maine’s total known cases 125 since it was first detected here on March 12.
Cumberland County remains the most affected, with a total of 74 active cases, and five recoveries.
No cases have yet been detected in Washington County, though experts say it is likely here.
“In any outbreak situation we are often just detecting the tip of the iceberg at any one time,” said CDC Executive Director Nirav Shah. “What we know right now is even if COVID-19 hasn’t been confirmed in your county, it’s likely there. If you wait until your county shows up on the board...I fear that you’ve waited too long.”
As of Tuesday, the state reported performing 3,014 negative tests.
Governor Mills said she is now mandating a 14-day closure of the public-facing elements of non-essential businesses. "For example, an insurance company or a bookstore could close its doors to the public, but still take calls and deliver goods," said Mills. The state is utilizing the Homeland Security definition of essential and non-essential businesses. Essential businesses include grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and delivery services like UPS and FedEx.
The closure is effective March 25 at 12:01 a.m.
Asked yesterday about the possibility of Maine issuing a shelter-in-place order like those issued in other states, Shah said he has questions about the effectiveness of a measure like that in Maine, which has already issued some severe restrictions including the closure of restaurant dining rooms, a prohibition on gatherings of 10 or more, and the Governor’s urging of non-essential businesses to close their doors.
“We come to this discussion about stay-at-home orders in some cases in a different place than other states,” said Shah. “We have to recognize Maine’s epidemiological profile. Maine is not Manhattan.” Manhattan has a population of 1.6 million, living in a 23-square-mile area. Maine has a population of 1.3 million, living in a 35,000-square-mile area.
Asked if the state would take measures to handle an influx of out-of-state people moving into the state, Shah emphasized that the CDC’s recommendations remain the same whether addressing travelers from out-of-state or infected Mainers.
“At this time right now, there is no official recommendation from U.S. CDC [for people traveling from infected regions of the United States], but for those folks, I would urge them to do what I think everyone should be doing — if you’ve returned from a part of the country where there are known high levels of cases, and you’re not feeling well, stay inside.”
For the time being, Shah said the state is focusing its available test kits on at-risk populations, especially people already inside of hospitals where transmission could occur easily, and where healthcare professionals need to know whether to use precious protective gear.
Unlike influenza, which typically presents symptoms within five days of exposure, symptoms of COVID-19 can take up to 16 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.
Shah urged anyone experiencing emotional distress to reach out to the Maine Crisis Hotline at 888-568-1112, and anyone needing information on COVID-19 can call 211.