AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills is stepping up calls for the federal government to release more coronavirus testing supplies and protective equipment from the national stockpile, as Maine now has 52 cases of coronavirus, including the first in Hancock County, an increase of 10 cases since Wednesday.

State officials are urging young people to take the disease more seriously and comply with social distancing rules, after a new study found surprising rates of hospitalizations among people between the ages of 20 and 40.

And a Falmouth retirement community where two cases were previously confirmed issued a shelter-in-place order after two additional cases were reported there.

In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Mills requested that the government speed up the release of personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile and pushed for “a steady and reliable supply” of testing materials as the outbreak intensifies.

“In the setting of a national emergency, states should not have to struggle with equipping front-line providers with PPE given the supplies on hand at the SNS,” Mills wrote. “At present, the demand from providers and first responders in our state will soon outstrip our available supply, even with the initial distribution,”

The Maine CDC has been monitoring stocks of personal protective equipment, such as masks, gowns and gloves, and distributed scarce resources to hospitals and first responders. Officials throughout the country have been calling on the federal government to do more to address the shortage of equipment meant to protect health care workers.


“The sooner that SNS can distribute additional PPE, the sooner that the State of Maine can work with the health care system in Maine to distribute those supplies and ensure our readiness before our health care system experiences a surge in cases,” Mills wrote.

The administration also issued an order Thursday to address the shortage of hand sanitizers in Maine, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control.

Shah said at a media briefing the new order will allow local compounding pharmacies to begin making and selling their own sanitizer. He continued to emphasize the importance of handwashing and sanitizing to prevent the spread of the virus.

“This is not an order – it’s an option for pharmacists,” Shah said. “We hope this will help alleviate any shortages of hand sanitizer that may be existing in the state right now.”

So far, 207,855 cases of COVID-19 and 8,648 deaths have been reported globally, according to the most recent information available from the World Health Organization. That includes the 10,442 cases and 150 deaths that have been reported in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Thursday, Italy surpassed China, where the virus originated, in the number of recorded deaths with 3,405. And the U.S. State Department warned Americans against traveling abroad.


Shah said the new COVID-19 cases in Maine include two additional cases at OceanView at Falmouth, an assisted-living and long-term care facility.

Shah said four people are hospitalized statewide, the same as Wednesday, and 2,004 people have tested negative. The number of people who have recovered remains at one, he said.

Shah also highlighted a concerning new analysis of hospitalizations released Wednesday by the U.S. CDC that found people between the ages of 20 and 40 account for 40 percent of the hospitalizations in the U.S.

The analysis comes amid reports that young people have not been following the directive for social distancing, which is one of the most effective ways to prevent the virus from spreading.

Shah called on young people to “do your civic duty” and adhere to social distancing guidelines by avoiding groups of 10 or more people, since close contact – that is, being within 6 feet of someone for 15 minutes – can spread the virus.

“Young folks are not immune or invincible with respect to COVID-19,” Shah said. “By social distancing, especially with this younger crowd, we can keep folks from getting sick on their own, but we can also prevent this downstream transmission to older and more vulnerable individuals.”


COVID-19 has now been found in eight of Maine’s 16 counties, with nearly half – 25 – of the 52 cases being reported in Cumberland County. Hancock County recorded its first case Thursday, one day after Penobscot County recorded its first case.

The two additional cases at OceanView in Falmouth bring the total to four cases at the private senior community. Shah said two of those cases were close household contacts.

“Based on what we have seen in other parts of the country, we are concerned,” he said. “However, this is not the same kind of long-term care facility that we saw be an epicenter for cases as we saw in Seattle-King County.”

As of Wednesday, the U.S. CDC has confirmed 129 COVID-19 cases at the Seattle-based nursing home, including 35 deaths.

OceanView at Falmouth has several different types of living arrangements within its sprawling 80-acre campus on Blueberry Lane, including cottages, apartments, assisted living and memory care. The facility offers a range of social events for residents, including fitness programs, dances, cocktail hours and group outings.

Shah said he could not disclose in which areas the cases were detected in order to protect patient privacy.


The state was notified Thursday morning about these cases, Shah said, so the investigation is ongoing.

“We’re taking another look at the situation right now,” Shah said.

OceanView said in a news release that residents were ordered to “shelter in place” after the additional cases were found.

Spokesperson Linda Varrell said in a statement that one of the residents remains hospitalized, while the other three are recuperating in isolation at home. She said all events and social activities have been canceled and meals are being delivered to residents’ rooms.

Varrell said the facility is conducting daily checks with people who have been exposed, including twice daily temperature checks for the next 14 days, and continues to prohibit nonessential visitors on the campus. The center is testing anyone who shows symptoms.

“In accordance with our planning, we are also strongly recommending that our residents self-quarantine for 14 days and vigilantly adhere to personal hygiene and social distancing best practices,” Varrell said. “We are also utilizing our nursing staff for regular phone calls for wellness checks and symptom checks daily for residents. This also creates a structure to minimize loneliness.”


Thursday’s update comes a day after Mills announced new restrictions on business operations and public gatherings. Spokespeople for Mills did not say whether businesses, especially restaurants, bars and other social gathering areas, were complying.

Linday Crete, Mills’ press secretary, said business owners had incentives to comply.

“Restaurants and bars have the incentive to maintain their licenses, and reports of large gatherings can be addressed informally by local law enforcement,” Crete said. “If need be, a civil summons or a criminal citation could be issued for both issues, but our hope and intent is that with education about the reasons for the rule, compliance will be voluntary since everyone’s health is at issue here.”

Meanwhile, Shah, the CDC director, said the state continues to evaluate what role the Maine National Guard could  play – if any – combating the coronavirus.

At least 22 other states, including New York, have activated their units to help respond to the growing number of COVID-19 cases and the increase demand for testing, according to the military publication Stars and Stripes.

Shah said guard members could be used to assist public health nurses, who are currently understaffed, and could be deployed into the field to care for home-bound patients and conduct follow-up tests on people with the virus so they can be released from isolation.


But Shah the state recognizes that many guard members have day jobs, including many who are paramedics. Any activation of the guard would take them away from those duties.

“We have thought about it. They have briefed with us. They are very well aware of the situation,” Shah said. “We have scenarios in mind, but as of now our stance is preparedness, not deployment.”

Mills said on a radio program Wednesday that guard members are ready to help with traffic control around testing sites and helping set-up hospital tents if needed.

Meanwhile, Shah urged Mainers to remain connected to family, friends and neighbors through phone calls, video calls or by waving to your neighbor from your front porch, while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Such measures can help prevent a “epidemic of loneliness.”

“Everyone should still remain socially connected,” he said. “Even as we introduce a little bit of physical space, that does not mean we have to introduce absolute space.”

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