As COVID-19 continues to surge in Maine, Lincoln County is also seeing a steady rise in cases, adding a second straight weekly high of 13 this week.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 32 cases of COVID-19 in county residents in the past three weeks, over a third of the 86 cases reported since the pandemic began in mid-March.
Two more residents have been hospitalized, for a total of eight hospitalizations so far.
The state public health agency reported two new cases on Wednesday, Nov. 4; one each on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 5 and 6; three on Saturday, Nov. 7; and six on Monday, Nov. 9.
According to data current as of Monday, Nov. 9, since COVID-19 arrived in Lincoln County in mid-March, 86 residents have had the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus — 80 confirmed cases and six probable.
Fifty-eight people have recovered from COVID-19 and one has died, leaving 27 active cases, the highest active case count so far in Lincoln County, up from 18 last week.
The case rate for the county is 25 per 10,000 people. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, has said that it appears community transmission is happening in all 16 of Maine’s counties, including Lincoln.
“This is what exponential growth looks like,” Shah said at a news conference on Monday, Nov. 2.
“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,” Andrew Russ, vice president of medical affairs at LincolnHealth, has said.
The Maine CDC’s ZIP code data does not indicate the location of the new cases. However, Wiscasset is now listed as having 10 cases, up from six two weeks ago.
Waldoboro is listed as having six to 19 cases and Jefferson is listed as having eight. The numbers reflect total cases, not active cases.
Bristol is now listed as having six to 19 cases, after having one to five cases two weeks ago.
The Maine CDC lists the following Lincoln County municipalities and places as having one to five cases: Alna, Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Bremen, Damariscotta, Dresden, Edgecomb, Newcastle, Pemaquid, Southport, Walpole, and Whitefield.
The agency does not list any cases in East Boothbay, New Harbor, Nobleboro, Round Pond, South Bristol, or Trevett.
LincolnHealth performed its highest number of COVID-19 tests this week, 546, with five positive results, for a positivity rate of 0.92%, down from 1.14% last week.
Of the 546 tests LincolnHealth performed in the past week, 277 were clinical, for people exhibiting symptoms; 45 were of patients without symptoms at either admission or discharge from the hospital; and 224 were preoperative or of people with known exposure to COVID-19 who did not exhibit symptoms.
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 “very high.”
Martins said that other than one employee at Cove’s Edge, a long-term care facility on the Miles Campus in Damariscotta, no other employees have had a positive COVID-19 test result. (See “Cove’s Edge employee tests positive for COVID-19” in this edition.)
Due to the current surge, LincolnHealth is adjusting some of its policies, including for visitation.
“Also, with the sustained and forceful widespread community transmission of COVID-19 across the state, we are returning to more restrictive visitation policies beginning Thursday, Nov. 12,” Martins said by email.
Only one visitor or escort will be allowed in certain areas of the hospital at a time. The areas and instances where one visitor is allowed are: pediatrics; obstetrics; day surgery; end-of-life care; the emergency department when a patient is critically ill; patient discharge; and to accompany any patient with a cognitive or physical disability.
Martins said eye protection is now being required for all direct patient encounters.
“Our patients should not be alarmed when greeted by screeners at our facilities,” Martins wrote.
LincolnHealth is also expanding its use of virtual meetings and requiring all staff to wear surgical masks. Previously, nonclinical employees who do not work directly with patients could wear cloth face coverings.
“Masks must remain on at all times, regardless of social distancing, with the exception of when a person is alone in their office with the door closed or when eating,” Martins wrote.
LincolnHealth also hosts a state-sponsored “swab-and-send” testing program at the Respiratory Care Clinic. From Nov. 1-6, 21 tests were performed with eight negative results, seven results in transit, and three canceled tests.
Martins said he is not sure why the numbers do not add up, but those are the numbers the hospital received from the state.
The swab-and-send site, now in the lower level of the parking lot at the Van Winkle building, at the crest of the hill to the right, 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 now get one at a swab-and-send clinic free of charge — even without symptoms, known exposure, or a doctor’s order.
Since July 27, LincolnHealth has performed 5,300 tests with 32 positives, for a positivity rate of 0.6%.
According to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, as of Nov. 9, Maine’s seven-day average positivity rate is 1.9%, up from 1% last week.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nationwide positivity rate for “week 44,” ending Oct. 31, is 8.2%, up from 7.1% last week.
State COVID-19 numbers
According to data current as of Monday, the Maine CDC has reported 8,060 COVID-19 cases in Maine, an increase of 983 from the week before. Of those cases, 887 are probable.
There have been 538 hospitalizations and 6,100 people have recovered. There have been 156 deaths so far from COVID-19 in Maine, six more than last week. The statewide case rate is 60.2 per 10,000 people.
The number of active cases, 1,804, is an increase of 563 from a week before.