Confirmed cases of the new coronavirus rose to 211 in Maine on Saturday, a jump of 43 from the day before.

The hardest hit areas are still Cumberland County, with 120 cases, and York County, with 38. Health officials have seen evidence of community transmission in both counties.

The new test results from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention were posted online Saturday morning, a day after the public health agency disclosed the first known death in Maine from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Meanwhile, the state is ramping up its testing capacity by outsourcing lab work to a private company, LabCorp, which is expected to receive about 800 samples for testing by Sunday, the Maine CDC’s director, Dr. Nirav Shah, said during a press briefing Saturday afternoon.

Public health officials have cautioned that, from a scientific perspective, a sharp rise in cases over hours or days is not enough time to draw conclusions about larger trends in an outbreak.


Testing is not yet widespread enough to determine for sure whether the jump in positive cases is a sign that the virus is propagating itself through community transmission, or if the new confirmed cases reflect the increased testing capacity itself.

“It’s sort of the $64,000 question when it comes to an outbreak,” Shah said. “In this situation, it’s probably a bit of both. Testing capacity in Maine, and with commercial laboratories, is expanding. But we have confirmed actual community transmission in Cumberland County and other counties.”

The backlog of samples held by the Maine CDC that await testing fell from about 1,300 earlier this past week to about 826 on Friday, and lab employees are working through the weekend to keep tests moving. Shah said the state purchased a new piece of testing equipment that will further increase testing capacity, but that equipment has not been shipped from the supplier yet.

“We don’t feel that this backlog is acceptable in any way, and that’s why we’re committing a significant amount of our team’s time and energy focusing on it.”

Shah said that about three dozen health care workers in Maine have already tested positive for the virus, and he commended the thousands of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who continue to work throughout the crisis.

The state is also compiling a list of medical professionals who volunteered to help if the state is overrun with patients. Shah said roughly 300 people have signed up via a state website, and the Maine CDC is now checking their credentials in case they must be dispatched to help patients at distressed health care facilities.


Shah and Gov. Janet Mills have been urging Mainers to stay at home – and act as though the coronavirus is already in their county, even if there aren’t recorded cases there yet.

Coronavirus was confirmed present in 11 Maine counties as of Saturday morning.

In addition to Cumberland and York counties, there were 10 confirmed cases in Penobscot County, nine in Kennebec, eight in Oxford, seven in Androscoggin, five each in Lincoln and Sagadahoc, and two each in Franklin, Knox and Waldo.

Disease detectives are still working to determine whether the 10 cases in Penobscot County are a result of discrete exposure or community transmission, which is defined as at least 10 positive cases with at least 25 percent originating without any known link from an already confirmed case, Shah said.

Three cases are “unknown” in geographic origin – a label health officials give to patients they are still working to interview and collect detailed information from. It does not mean they don’t know who the patients are.

Among those who have tested positive for the virus were two doctors at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport who had minimal contact with patients before symptoms developed, the hospital said Saturday, adding that the doctors followed guidelines for self-isolation.


In addition, Shaw’s Supermarkets said Saturday night that an employee at its Congress Street store in Portland had tested positive. The employee last worked a shift March 23, but the chain did not provide details about the person’s role at the store, and if the employee had frequent customer contact before experiencing symptoms.

Maine recorded its first death from COVID-19 on Friday — a Cumberland County man in his 80s whom officials have not named — and 36 patients have recovered from the disease, according to the Maine CDC.

The new coronavirus had infected nearly 660,000 people around the world by Saturday, with the United States leading in numbers of cases, with more than 121,000. More than 30,000 people have died worldwide, including roughly 2,000 in the U.S. as of Saturday night.

Maine has taken emergency measures, closing schools and “nonessential” businesses and encouraging residents to stay indoors, except for such activities as grocery shopping and physical exercise.

As concerns mount about potential transmission of the virus from out-of-state visitors, Maine plans to post messages on electronic sign boards along the Maine Turnpike that direct people coming from areas with high infection rates – such as New York – to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

It is not clear how state authorities will enforce that order.

Public health officials are still working overtime to assemble the medical supplies needed to treat the disease while keeping medical workers safe.

A shipment of chemicals for testing recently arrived – enough for 3,000 patients – but even more will be needed, Shah said. As of Friday, he said, 86 of Maine’s 164 intensive care unit beds were available, and 247 of its 308 ventilators.

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