Lincoln County saw few new COVID-19 cases over much of the past week, then added five on Monday, Dec. 14 and 14 on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Tuesday’s was the highest single-day increase for the county since the pandemic began.
Lincoln County has the second-lowest total case count in the state, after Piscataquis County, and the third-lowest case rate, at 60.6 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 active cases jumped to 64, up from 42 last week. One more resident has been hospitalized, for a total of 12 hospitalizations so far.
According to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data current as of Tuesday, Dec. 15, since COVID-19 arrived in Lincoln County in mid-March, 208 residents have had the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus — 191 confirmed cases and 17 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 case rate for the county is 60.6 per 10,000 people, up from 54.2 last week.
The Maine CDC’s ZIP code data shows new cases in Damariscotta, Edgecomb, Jefferson, Round Pond, Whitefield, and Wiscasset.
Damariscotta is up to 14, from 12 last week; Jefferson is up to 15, from 12 last week; Whitefield is up to 35, from 29 last week; and Wiscasset is up to 28, from 22 last week.
Waldoboro is listed as having 20-49.
Cases in Edgecomb have also risen, as the town is now listed with six to 19 cases, along with Boothbay Harbor and Bristol.
The agency lists one to five cases in Alna, Boothbay, Bremen, Dresden, East Boothbay, Nobleboro, Pemaquid, Round Pond, Southport, and Walpole.
Round Pond saw its first detected case or cases this week.
The agency does not list any cases in New Harbor, South Bristol, 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 very high.
He said the hospital is fielding many calls about the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine, but it will not be available to the general public for some time.
“It is important for the community to understand that vaccinations won’t be available to most patients until late spring or early summer,” Martins said. “The number of doses will be limited, and we will focus on our health care team members who are dealing with our most critically ill patients.”
However, he said that as the hospital receives more doses of the vaccine and state and federal guidance about who gets prioritized for a vaccine is finalized, LincolnHealth will work to inoculate patients as quickly as possible.
“We stand ready to offer vaccine to our patients who meet the criteria when the guidance is finalized and we have vaccine for that purpose,” Martins said.
Martins said that LincolnHealth expects the first shipment of the vaccine developed by the Cambridge, Mass.-based pharmaceutical company Moderna to arrive sometime next week.
The Moderna vaccine is expected to gain emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this weekend.
After the FDA approved a vaccine developed by Pfizer last weekend, Maine hospitals began to receive shipments on Monday, Dec. 14.
Martins said LincolnHealth likely will not receive the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage, unlike the one from Moderna.
Despite the arrival of a vaccine, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, has been urging Mainers to continue following virus precautions, like wearing face masks, staying physically distant from one another, and not traveling or gathering in groups.
Shah explained during a press briefing on Wednesday, Dec. 9 that in order to set up the state for “maximal vaccine success,” the population has to get the coronavirus under control as much as possible.
“According to some recent research, any COVID vaccine will be much less effective at preventing death or illness if the vaccine is introduced into a population where the virus is already raging, which, sadly, is the case in many parts of our country,” Shah said.
Martins echoed Shah’s comments on remaining vigilant. He also urged patients to keep appointments for care they need.
“We are available and safe to see you for health screenings and testing as well as primary and specialty care appointments. Telehealth appointments are also available,” Martins said.
LincolnHealth performed 577 tests from Dec. 7-13 with 22 positives, for a positivity rate of 3.81%, up from 3.36% the previous week.
Of the 577 tests LincolnHealth performed in the past week, 275 were clinical, for people exhibiting symptoms; 29 were of patients without symptoms at either admission or discharge from the hospital; and 273 were preoperative or of people with known exposure to COVID-19 who did not exhibit symptoms.
The state-sponsored “swab-and-send” clinic performed 10 tests with 10 negative results in the past week.
Since the swab-and-send clinic opened on Aug. 24, 287 tests have been performed with 270 results received. Only three positives have been reported.
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 6,706 tests with 126 positives, for a positivity rate of 1.88%.
According to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, as of Dec. 16, Maine’s seven-day average positivity rate is 4.8%, up from 3.4% last week, and has been steadily rising since November.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nationwide positivity rate for “week 49,” ending Dec. 5, is 13.3%, up from 11.7% last week.
State COVID-19 numbers
According to data current as of Tuesday, the Maine CDC has reported 17,311 COVID-19 cases in Maine, an increase of 2,857 from the week before. Of those cases, 2,169 are probable.
There have been 934 hospitalizations and 10,650 people have recovered. There have been 267 deaths so far from COVID-19 in Maine, including 21 in the last week. The statewide case rate is 129.3 per 10,000 people, up from 108 last week.
The number of active cases, 6,394, is an increase of 2,524 from a week before.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article online and on the front page of the Dec. 17 print edition incorrectly reported, on first reference, Lincoln County’s COVID-19 case rate. The case rate as of Tuesday, Dec. 15 was 60.6 per 10,000 people, up from 54.2 the previous week. The Lincoln County News regrets the error.)