The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 142 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday as well as two additional deaths.
To date, 158 deaths in Maine have been linked to the coronavirus, with the two most recent cases identified as a man in his 80s from Knox County and a woman in her 70s from Waldo County. While Maine’s death rate from COVID-19 remains among the lowest in the country, the number of fatalities tied to the virus is increasing in Maine — including four additional deaths reported Tuesday — as the virus surges across the state.
Hospitalizations are also approaching their highest levels during the now eight-month-long pandemic as Maine experiences the highest virus reproduction rate in the country.
Maine CDC reported 59 hospitalizations on Tuesday — just shy of the peak of 60 individuals hospitalized on May 26 — with 16 people in critical care units and six connected to ventilators. The state had 100 available critical care beds as of Tuesday along with 246 available ventilators. But hospitalizations are likely to continue rising due to a lag between new infections and severe onset of symptoms in individuals who prove particularly vulnerable to the virus.
COVID-19 cases are surging across the country, with infections in the U.S. topping 10 million and causing nearly 240,000 deaths, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
The Maine CDC has tracked 8,202 total cases since the virus was first detected in Maine in mid-March. Of that total, 7,300 are confirmed while 902 were listed as “probable” cases on Wednesday. The 142 new cases reported Wednesday is down from 204 on Monday and 172 on Tuesday.
Maine’s rolling seven-day average of new cases fell slightly to 163.7 on Wednesday, down from 165. But that is six times higher than the 27.1 rolling seven-day average reported four weeks ago and nearly three times higher than the rate from two weeks ago, reflecting rapid spread of the virus in the state.
On Tuesday, the Maine CDC said that five counties in Maine — Franklin, Knox, Waldo, Somerset and Washington — were experiencing “high or substantial community transmission” of the virus. And Maine had the nation’s highest virus reproduction rate, also known as the R number, according to the website rt.live that tracks the spread of the virus using publicly available data.
State health officials are urging Maine residents to be vigilant about wearing face coverings, which are required in all public settings, as well as maintaining physical distancing. Although Maine CDC continues to detect and track new outbreaks, director Dr. Nirav Shah has been warning for several weeks that Maine’s rapid case growth appears to be largely driven by people gathering in small groups — whether family members, friends or co-workers — while not wearing masks or appropriately distancing.
This story will be updated.