As cases of COVID-19 surge across Maine, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 12 new cases in Lincoln County, the highest weekly total since the beginning of the pandemic, and confirmed community transmission in the county for the first time.
The Maine CDC has reported 19 cases in county residents in the past two weeks, the highest two-week total since the pandemic began.
The state public health agency reported one case on Tuesday, Oct. 27; two on Thursday, Oct. 29; three on Friday, Oct. 30; five on Monday, Nov. 2; and three on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Two probable cases were likely removed from the count after the people tested negative, leading to a net gain of 12 cases.
“The two most common reasons for a change is that the individual tests positive and becomes a confirmed case or that the individual tests negative and is no longer considered a case,” Robert Long, spokesperson for the Maine CDC, has said of probable cases.
According to data current as of Tuesday, Nov. 3, since COVID-19 arrived in Lincoln County in mid-March, 73 residents have had COVID-19 — 67 confirmed cases and six probable.
Fifty-four people have recovered from COVID-19 and one has died, leaving 18 active cases, the highest active case count so far in Lincoln County.
The case rate for the county is 21.3 per 10,000 people. Six residents have been hospitalized at some point in their illness.
Long said by email on Monday, Nov. 2, in response to a question about an outbreak investigation at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro (see “COVID-19 outbreak identified at MVHS, principal in quarantine” in this edition) that community transmission, now widespread in Maine, is happening in Lincoln County.
Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said in a news conference on Monday, Nov. 2 that new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in all 16 counties over the previous four days and they are not all associated with outbreaks, pointing to the likely prevalence of community transmission.
“When we touch base with individuals for that first interview, increasingly on a day-to-day basis now, a smaller and smaller fraction of those individuals report association with any of the known outbreaks that we have,” Shah said. “That’s further evidence that what’s happening is community transmission. It’s not being driven by focal events, but rather dispersed interactions with one another.”
Andrew Russ, vice president of medical affairs at LincolnHealth, said by email that the increase in cases and the current surge in Maine reinforces the need for vigilance against the spread of COVID-19.
Russ said he is hearing reports from other health systems that the number of people contracting COVID-19 without knowing where they contracted it is on the rise.
“That would be a sure indication of community spread, a situation we are working diligently to minimize,” Russ said. “Everyone can play a part in reducing community spread. Wear your mask, keep at least 6 feet apart from each other, wash your hands frequently, and avoid gathering with friends and extended family.”
LincolnHealth performed its highest number of COVID-19 tests this week, 526, with the highest weekly number of positive results, six, for a positivity rate of 1.14%, down from 1.16% last week.
John Martins, spokesperson for LincolnHealth, said by email that the volume of calls to the Respiratory Care Clinic, at the Webster Van Winkle Medical Building on the Miles Campus, has remained high.
Martins said COVID-19 drive-in testing has been moved to the lower level of the parking lot at the Van Winkle building, at the crest of the hill to the right, to offer covered parking spaces that protect from the elements.
Respiratory care evaluations are being performed in the upper-level parking lot at the Van Winkle building.
At the hospital, Martins said patients will now be screened inside the first set of doors at the front entrance, where a former gift shop has been converted into an office space for screeners.
“We continue to screen all patients as they arrive for appointments or pre-screen them over the phone when they arrive before their appointments. We appreciate their patience and compliance with masking and social distancing requirements,” Martins said.
Of the 526 tests LincolnHealth performed in the past week, 237 were clinical, for people exhibiting symptoms; 49 were of patients without symptoms at either admission or discharge from the hospital; and 240 were preoperative or of people with known exposure to COVID-19 who did not exhibit symptoms.
LincolnHealth also hosts a state-sponsored “swab-and-send” testing program at the Respiratory Care Clinic. Martins said that in the past week, the program conducted 17 tests with no positives.
The swab-and-send site currently offers drive-up testing by appointment outside the clinic from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Thursday. To make an appointment, call the clinic at 563-4353.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has said that anyone who feels they need a COVID-19 test in Maine can now get one at a swab-and-send clinic free of charge — even without symptoms, known exposure, or a doctor’s order.
LincolnHealth conducted 2,017 COVID-19 tests in October with 15 positives, for a positivity rate of 0.74%.
Although the numbers reflect the highest monthly total of tests and positive results at LincolnHealth since March, in that month, the positivity rate was its highest, 2.03%, when 197 tests were performed with four positives.
The cumulative positivity rate at the hospital is 0.61%.
According to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, as of Nov. 4, Maine’s seven-day average positivity rate is 1%, up from 0.7% last week.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nationwide positivity rate for “week 43,” ending Oct. 24, rose from 6.3% the previous week to 7.1%.
State COVID-19 numbers
According to data current as of Tuesday, the Maine CDC has reported 7,077 COVID-19 cases in Maine, an increase of 690 from the week before. Of those cases, 836 are probable.
There have been 507 hospitalizations and 5,686 people have recovered. There have been 150 deaths so far from COVID-19 in Maine, four more than last week. The statewide case rate is 52.9 per 10,000 people.
The number of active cases, 1,241, is an increase of 441 from a week before.