The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 236 cases of the novel coronavirus and two more deaths, pushing the totals up as the holidays approach.
Public health experts urge Americans to cancel or limit vacation plans, but about 2.2 million New Englanders are expected to travel for Thanksgiving this year, according to a forecast by AAA in northern New England . That’s still down about 9 percent from last year’s vacation travel, the biggest such drop since the 2008 recession.
Cumulative cases in Maine rose to 10,359 on Sunday, of which 9,294 were confirmed by testing and 1,065 are considered probable cases of COVID-19.
One hundred and seventy-six people have died from COVID-19 in Maine and 7,791 have recovered from the disease. Maine had 2,392 active cases as of Sunday.
The two people who are believed to have died on Sunday were an Androscoggin County man in his 60s and a Franklin County man in his 80s, the Maine CDC said.
The surging numbers pushed Maine to a new high on Sunday, with a daily seven-day case average of 204.6. A nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases has finally hit Maine, which has seen low numbers of cases throughout the summer, and public health experts are asking residents to wear masks and physically distance themselves from other.
Principals should take precautions, warned Dr Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, last week; otherwise, the upward trend makes it “more and more difficult to put a lid on things”.
Last week, Governor Janet Mills imposed a 9 p.m. closing time for restaurants, cinemas, tasting rooms and casinos which began Friday and lasts until December 6.
Meanwhile, trucks could start rolling in Maine with batches of COVID-19 vaccine as early as mid-December. But that doesn’t mean that it will be distributed so quickly or easily.
Maine CDC officials say they are planning a large-scale effort to vaccinate as many people as possible, as soon as possible, involving the National Guard, firefighters, paramedics and many other healthcare workers. Two different vaccines await approval from the US Food and Drug Administration; one of these, from Pfizer, should be stored at an ultra-cold temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius.
Maine plans to acquire two freezers in December and hopes to borrow a massive ultra-cold storage unit from the University of New England as well. The large-scale vaccination effort will take place in several phases, first inoculating those most at risk, starting with health workers.
The vaccine will not be available to all Mainers until the fourth phase, after being given to healthcare workers, the elderly, school and prison workers, people with underlying health conditions, children and people in other high risk jobs. Still, the Maine CDC says its plans are to vaccinate 80% of residents within 12 weeks – about 1.04 million people.
County by county in Maine since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,370 cases of coronavirus in Androscoggin, 95 in Aroostook, 3556 in Cumberland, 194 in Franklin, 213 in Hancock, 668 in Kennebec, 188 in Knox, 134 in Lincoln, 285 in Oxford, 649 in Penobscot, 35 in Piscataquis, 134 in Sagadahoc, 402 in Somerset, 210 in Waldo, 178 in Washington and 2040 in York.
By age, 13% of patients were under 20, 18.3% in their 20s, 15.2% in their 30s, 13.2% in their 40s, 15.4% in their 50s, 11.5% in in their 60s, 7.3% in their 70s, and 6.2% were 80 or older.
Women still represent a slight majority of cases, at just over 51%.
Updated data on hospital capacity was not yet available as of early Sunday morning. As of Saturday, hospitals in Maine had 86 patients with COVID-19, including 41 in intensive care and 11 on ventilators. The state had 93 intensive care unit beds out of a total of 374 and 248 ventilators available out of 315. There were also 444 reciprocating ventilators.
As of Sunday, worldwide there were 58.2 million known cases of COVID-19 and nearly 1.4 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had more than 12 million cases and just under 256,000 deaths.
This story will be updated.
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