Lincoln County saw 47 residents diagnosed with COVID-19 over the last week — the highest weekly increase since the pandemic began in mid-March.
The previous weekly high was 31, set the week of Monday, Nov. 16, when the initial fall surge of COVID-19 started.
Lincoln County has the second-lowest total case count in the state, after Piscataquis County, and the third-lowest case rate, at 74.3 per 10,000 people. Only Piscataquis and Aroostook counties have lower case rates.
After accounting for 142 recoveries and two deaths of Lincoln County residents, the number of apparent active cases is 111, up from 64 last week. The number of residents hospitalized with COVID-19 held steady at 12 this week.
There have been no reported recoveries in Lincoln County since Dec. 8, which may reflect the current backlog and shifting prioritization of contact tracing by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Robert Long, spokesperson for the state health agency, said by email on Dec. 16 that the agency doesn’t use the term “active cases,” but refers to any cases that are not a recovery or a death as “other cases.” He said the term “active cases” has a different epidemiological meaning.
Long added that “other cases” may appear higher since the Maine CDC is focusing resources on new positive cases.
“That said, the increase in new cases has led us to focus resources on people coming into the system, which means we are not able to confirm that people have met recovery criteria for data presentation,” Long wrote.
According to Maine CDC data current as of Tuesday, Dec. 22, since COVID-19 arrived in Lincoln County in mid-March, 255 residents have had the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus — 234 confirmed cases and 21 probable.
Because new positive COVID-19 tests are being received at a faster rate than the state agency is able to review them, the Maine CDC website says that “reported case numbers do not currently reflect the total number of people in Maine who have tested positive for COVID-19.”
“At this time, the total number of cases of COVID-19 in Maine is higher than the case numbers shown here,” the website says.
The Maine CDC’s ZIP code data shows that Damariscotta, Boothbay, and Walpole saw new cases; Whitefield had a case removed from its count; and South Bristol had its first resident or residents test positive for COVID-19.
Damariscotta is listed at 17 cases, up from 14 last week, and South Bristol is now listed at one to five.
Whitefield saw one case removed from its total, going down from 35 to 34, likely due to a probable case being found to be negative.
Boothbay’s case count increased from one to five up to six this week.
No other counts have changed from last week.
Waldoboro is listed as having 20-49 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. Wiscasset is listed at 28.
Jefferson is listed at 15, Boothbay at six, Boothbay Harbor at seven, and Damariscotta at 17. The Jefferson ZIP code includes Somerville, while Wiscasset’s includes Westport Island.
Bristol, Edgecomb, Newcastle, and Walpole are listed at six to 19 cases.
The agency lists one to five cases in Alna, Bremen, Dresden, East Boothbay, Nobleboro, Pemaquid, Round Pond, South Bristol, and Southport.
The agency does not list any cases in New Harbor or Trevett.
John Martins, spokesperson for LincolnHealth, said by email that call volume at the Respiratory Care Clinic on the Miles Campus in Damariscotta remains steady.
The vaccine developed by the Cambridge, Mass.-based pharmaceutical company Moderna arrived at LincolnHealth on Tuesday, Dec. 22 and inoculation of hospital staff began almost immediately.
Martins said the hospital had 64 vaccination appointments available that day and they all filled up quickly.
Martins said LincolnHealth is expecting 600 doses for this initial round of inoculation, which will focus on personnel in the emergency room, intensive care/special care unit, and Respiratory Care Clinic.
“We will continue from there, focusing on those in patient-facing roles. Our plan is for each and every dose of vaccine to be administered,” Martins said.
The Moderna vaccine requires two doses administered four weeks apart.
Martins also said that two cases of COVID-19 were identified in employees at Chase Point Assisted Living on Tuesday, Dec. 22 during routine surveillance testing.
Martins said that neither individual experienced symptoms and LincolnHealth is following guidance from the Maine CDC.
“The team at Chase Point has informed the residents, their loved ones, and most employees. They will continue outreach to the staff,” Martins said.
Martins urged Lincoln County residents to continue practicing COVID-19 public health protocols.
“We hope that residents of Lincoln County safely celebrate the holidays and are considering creative ways to gather from a distance,” Martins wrote. “It’s also important for all of us to continue to practice wearing our masks, washing our hands, and (staying) at least 6 feet apart.”
LincolnHealth performed 410 tests from Dec. 14-20 with 18 positives, for a positivity rate of 4.39%, up from 3.81% the previous week.
Of the 410 tests LincolnHealth performed in the past week, 201 were clinical, for people exhibiting symptoms; 34 were of patients without symptoms at either admission or discharge from the hospital; and 175 were preoperative or of people with known exposure to COVID-19 who did not exhibit symptoms.
The state-sponsored “swab-and-send” clinic performed 23 tests with nine negative results from Dec. 12-18. Other results are pending.
Since the swab-and-send clinic opened on Aug. 24, 310 tests have been performed with 280 results received. Only three positives have been reported. Seven tests have been canceled.
The swab-and-send site offers drive-up testing by appointment from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Thursday. To make an appointment, call the clinic at 563-4353.
Since Sept. 7, LincolnHealth has performed 7,116 tests with 144 positives for a positivity rate of 2.02%, up from 1.88% last week.
According to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, as of Dec. 16, Maine’s seven-day average positivity rate is 5.8%, up from 4.8% last week, and has been steadily rising since November. This is the first time Maine has broken the 5% positivity mark, a key benchmark set by the World Health Organization.
The World Health Organization advised governments on May 12 that before reopening, rates of positivity in testing should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days. Only three states in the U.S. and Washington, D.C. currently meet these criteria.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nationwide positivity rate for “week 50,” ending Dec. 12, decreased for the first time in months to 12.2%, down from 13.3% last week.
State COVID-19 numbers
According to data current as of Tuesday, the Maine CDC has reported 20,491 COVID-19 cases in Maine, an increase of 3,180 from the week before. Of those cases, 2,796 are probable.
There have been 1,000 hospitalizations and 11,039 people have recovered. There have been 311 deaths so far from COVID-19 in Maine, including 44 in the last week. The statewide case rate is 153.1 per 10,000 people, up from 129.3 last week.
The number of active or “other” cases, 9,141, is an increase of 2,747 from a week before.