As the fall surge of COVID-19 continues in Maine, Lincoln County continues to see a rise in new cases. The 31 new cases in the past week more than double the past weekly high of 13 — set last week — and the county has its first two outbreaks.
This marks the third straight week with a record-high case count.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 63 cases of COVID-19 in county residents in the past month, over half of the 117 cases reported since the pandemic began in mid-March.
Two of 14 new outbreak investigations announced by Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah on Monday, Nov. 16 are in Lincoln County. One is at Cove’s Edge, a long-term care facility on LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus in Damariscotta, and another at Whitefield Elementary School. (See “Three more Cove’s Edge employees test positive for COVID-19” and “Whitefield Elementary has outbreak, other schools report cases” in this edition.)
Lincoln County has also seen 20 new recoveries from the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus in the past week, for a total of 78. One more resident has been hospitalized, for a total of nine hospitalizations so far.
According to data current as of Tuesday, Nov. 17, since COVID-19 arrived in Lincoln County in mid-March, 117 residents have had the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus — 111 confirmed cases and six probable.
After accounting for the 78 recoveries and one death, Lincoln County currently has 38 active cases, up from 27 last week.
The case rate for the county is 34.1 per 10,000 people, up from 25 last week.
“These outbreaks are a direct outcropping of the increasing levels of community transmission that we have started to see in the past couple of weeks,” Shah said on Monday. “The ground has been seeded with ever-increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, and we’re now starting to see patches in the form of outbreaks emerge all across the state.”
The Maine CDC’s ZIP code data does not indicate the location of the new cases. However, Newcastle is now listed as having six to 19 cases and Damariscotta is listed as having six. Both towns were listed at one to five a week ago.
East Boothbay has moved from having no detected cases to having one to five. All other ZIP code data remains unchanged from last week. Wiscasset is listed as having 10 cases and Jefferson has eight. Waldoboro and Bristol each have six to 19.
The Maine CDC lists the following Lincoln County municipalities and places as having one to five cases: Alna, Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Bremen, Dresden, East Boothbay, Edgecomb, Pemaquid, Southport, Walpole, and Whitefield.
The agency does not list any cases in New Harbor, Nobleboro, Round Pond, South Bristol, or Trevett.
LincolnHealth performed another record number of tests in the past week, 583, with 20 positive results, for a record-high positivity rate of 3.43%, up from 0.92% last week.
John Martins, spokesperson for LincolnHealth, said by email that these numbers reflect the community spread of COVID-19 in Lincoln County and across the state.
In addition to the four employees at Cove’s Edge, a member of the ophthalmology team also tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Martins said the employee has not had symptoms and is self-quarantining. He said all close contacts and patients who were in the office that day have been notified.
LincolnHealth has adopted a more stringent visitation policy and is preregistering patients and asking them to wait in their vehicles until their appointment time.
Of the 583 tests LincolnHealth performed in the past week, 274 were clinical, for people exhibiting symptoms; 48 were of patients without symptoms at either admission or discharge from the hospital; and 261 were preoperative or of people with known exposure to COVID-19 who did not exhibit symptoms.
Martins said by email that the phones are “ringing nonstop” at the hospital’s Respiratory Care Clinic and testing volume continues to rise.
LincolnHealth also hosts a state-sponsored “swab-and-send” testing program at the Respiratory Care Clinic in the lower-level lot of the Webster Van Winkle building. From Nov. 7-13, 14 specimens were collected with 16 negative results and one positive coming back. The positive was the first found via the swab-and-send program.
Martins said there is a three- to four-day lag in receiving test results from the state, so the number of tests collected and the number of results may not line up.
The swab-and-send site currently 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.
Martins said swab-and-send testing will not be available the week of Thanksgiving.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has said that anyone who feels they need a COVID-19 test in Maine can get one at a swab-and-send clinic free of charge — even without symptoms, known exposure, or a doctor’s order.
Martins said that LincolnHealth continues to work closely with schools in an advisory capacity, has a team working on a plan for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, and is working closely with MaineHealth to prepare for a potential surge across the entire MaineHealth system.
Jim Donovan, president of LincolnHealth, said in a Monday, Nov. 16 statement that Lincoln County residents must step up their vigilance in defending against COVID-19 infection and not give in to “so-called COVID fatigue” after eight months of dealing with the pandemic.
“We urge everyone in the community to wear a face covering over their mouth and nose whenever they are in public, as well as when they are in an indoor space with people who are not part of their immediate household. This should be the case even when people are practicing social distancing and are more than 6 feet apart,” Donovan said.
Since July 27, LincolnHealth has performed 5,883 tests with 52 positives, for a positivity rate of 0.89%, up from 0.6% last week.
According to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, as of Nov. 17, Maine’s seven-day average positivity rate is 2.1%, up from 1.9% last week.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nationwide positivity rate for “week 45,” ending Nov. 7, is 10.5%, up from 8.2% last week.
State COVID-19 numbers
According to data current as of Tuesday, the Maine CDC has reported 9,519 COVID-19 cases in Maine, an increase of 1,459 from the week before. Of those cases, 960 are probable.
There have been 600 hospitalizations and 7,229 people have recovered. There have been 170 deaths so far from COVID-19 in Maine, including 14 in the last week. The statewide case rate is 71.1 per 10,000 people.
The number of active cases, 2,120, is an increase of 316 from a week before.