CDC sounds alarm as case rate climbs

ELLSWORTH — In the latest Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) briefing on COVID-19, Director Dr. Nirav Shah said in quite clear terms, “The spike of which we foreshadowed is happening.”

With positive cases reported at over 50 per day this week — 174 positive test results were reported in the three-day period of Oct. 25 through Oct. 27 — Shah said, “Unfortunately, we expect that the number of new cases per day will continue at this rate and likely will move even higher in the coming days.”

The positivity rate per 100,000 tests jumped from 0.45 positive results to 0.66 in the last two weeks, he reported, while the volume of COVID-19 testing has stabilized, implying that the positive case increase can’t be traced to an increase in testing.

“The bottom line is that we are in it now. And this is deeply concerning. It should put to rest any notion that it can’t happen here. It can happen here,” Shah said.

Transmission is occurring not only from identified outbreaks, but from community and even household transmission as people have increasingly moved indoors. Shah advised wearing face coverings while maintaining a minimum of 6 feet between people while indoors, even at small home gatherings.

“What makes things hard right now is we’re tired,” Shah acknowledged before stating: “Our response now will determine our success later.”

Asked whether there had been positive cases linked to recent large gatherings, such as the Oct. 25 Trump event in Levant and the Oct. 19 Pence rally in Hermon, Shah said there can be lag time in reporting, as symptoms can take three to five days to appear. Shah said it was too early to know if either event will result in cases or an outbreak, noting there were two factors in play in terms of transmission risk: duration of the event and density of people. These factors are “potentially magnified” if face coverings are not used.

For employers whose employees attend large events on personal time while not keeping to Maine CDC safety guidelines, Shah advised keeping to the guidelines for the particular workplace “to make sure [it] doesn’t become a site of transmission.”

In Hancock County, as of Oct. 27, there were 69 cases, 62 of which are confirmed, three hospitalizations and one death. The case rate per 10,000 is 12.6. Washington County is seeing a rapid increase in positive cases in the past month, Shah said, with 32 of its total 48 cases occurring this month. The case rate was 15.2 as of Tuesday.

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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