BAR HARBOR — With positive case numbers continuing to rise across Maine, Governor Janet Mills has extended the state of civil emergency to the end of November. The administration has postponed the reopening of bars and tasting rooms, which had been scheduled for Nov. 2, reinstated quarantine-or-test requirements for travelers from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey and rolled back the crowd limit for indoor gatherings from 100 people to 50.
Maine is not alone in experiencing a surge in positive cases — they are rising in states across the country — and Mills said she hopes that the new measures will help reduce COVID-19’s spread and avoid further restrictions, such as those just announced in Rhode Island, where indoor gatherings are now limited to 10 people. But it could happen, she warned.
“The data is telling us we are off course,” Mills said at the Nov. 2 Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) press briefing.
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah drilled down into the data: The seven-day average of new daily cases has jumped alarmingly from 52, reported on Oct. 26, to 83.1, reported Nov. 2. The hospitalization rate has risen to 1.06 percent per 100,000 people, double the rate reported two weeks ago. There are now positive cases in all 16 Maine counties, with 29 people hospitalized, eight patients in ICU and one on a ventilator when two weeks ago there were only nine people hospitalized and none in ICU or on a ventilator. In addition, two women, one in her 90s in York County and one in her 80s in Androscoggin County, have died from COVID-19 since Saturday.
In Hancock County, the Maine CDC reported 76 cumulative cases, 69 confirmed and seven probable, three hospitalizations and one death as of Nov. 2, the same day Blue Hill restaurant The Thurston Co. announced a positive employee test and a minimum two-week closure as the owners work with the Maine CDC for guidance and testing. Last week, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a deputy tested positive for the virus after attending a training in Southern Maine.
Mills on Monday also addressed the continuing hit to the state economy, noting that $13 million in COVID-19 federal relief funds have been “set aside” for education and protection plans for cities and towns while twice stating, “You cannot have a healthy economy without healthy people. You have to put people first.”
She urged people to “raise their voices” for new federal relief spending that has been hamstrung in Washington, D.C., in recent weeks. “These are American people who need aid from the American government. There’s no question about it,” she said, while declining to “play Monday morning quarterback” over the current federal administration’s overall response.
Shah repeated the most recent information that community transmission is driving the rise in cases, not a specific outbreak. He and Mills urged all citizens to wear masks indoors and out, wash hands frequently and follow the state COVID-19 guidelines.
“One of the reasons we’re taking the actions we’re taking is to keep people safe for the holidays, for the coming weeks and months,” Mills said.