Women in Maine are more likely to contract coronavirus but more men have died from it.

Mainers 80 years old or older account for just 13 percent of COVID-19 cases but roughly 50 percent of the deaths, while those under 50 account for 36 percent of infections but zero deaths.

Roughly one in every 700 residents of Cumberland County – Maine’s most densely populated county – have tested positive for the viral disease. In neighboring rural Oxford County, it’s one for every 4,100 residents.

But the most common group in Maine to test positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus? Health care workers, who make up one-quarter of all confirmed cases of COVID-19, both because of their higher risk of exposure and the aggressive testing of their profession.

Those are a few of the trends emerging now that Maine is approaching 1,000 confirmed cases, although state officials caution that because of limited testing that figure captures only a small portion of the virus’s presence in Maine.

And while Maine has among the nation’s lowest per capita infection rates, public health officials say that can change quickly and deadly outbreaks in several long-term care facilities underscore the need for continued vigilance.

“We have enormous surges going on 40 minutes from Portland and five minutes from the Portsmouth-Kittery bridge,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth and a former director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s still knocking on the door in New Hampshire … and Boston is having this surge. You know, the virus doesn’t recognize the Portsmouth-Kittery bridge.”


As of Friday, Maine had 965 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 47 deaths from the disease. That is more than 2.5 times the case numbers from three weeks earlier. Yet Maine still falls squarely in the bottom fifth of all states in per capita infection rates.

Roughly 68 in every 100,000 Maine residents have tested positive for the viral disease, which is lower than all but six other states – West Virginia, Oregon, Minnesota, Alaska, Montana and Hawaii – according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Massachusetts, by comparison, that figure was 622 confirmed infections for every 100,000 residents as of Thursday, while the rate in New York, which remains the country’s COVID-19 epicenter, was just shy of 1,300 cases among every 100,000 residents.

Vermont and New Hampshire – the two northern New England states with which Maine may take a collaborative approach to “reopening the economy” – had respective infection rates of 131 and 117 per 100,000 residents, the federal data show.

In terms of COVID deaths, Maine is among the 18 states reporting three or fewer deaths per 100,000 residents, according to a daily tracking analysis by The New York Times. Connecticut and Massachusetts, by comparison, had death rates that were 15 times and 11 times higher than Maine’s three per 100,000 rate.


In Maine and nationally, older individuals don’t necessarily come down with the disease more often but are more likely to suffer severe health consequences or death.

Mainers 80 years old or older made up 23 of the 47 COVID deaths reported in the state as of Thursday, while those between 70 and 79 accounted for another 19 deaths.

The other five deaths were among individuals between 50 and 69. The Maine CDC does not release specific age or town of residence for individuals who test positive for the disease or die from it, instead disclosing age data by decade and residency information by county.

As of Friday, 25 of the 47 deaths – or 53 percent – have occurred at nursing homes or other long-term care communities. The two hardest-hit facilities are the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough, with has lost 11 residents, and Tall Pines in Belfast, which has reported 10 deaths.

Overall, so-called “congregate care” facilities account for 211 of the state’s 965 cases.

Although complete national data is not yet available, a recent report suggests that Maine’s 53 percent rate of deaths attributed to long-term care facilities is among the highest in the country.

The report released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that conducts health analyses, found that deaths at long-term care facilities represented 27 percent of total deaths reported by the 23 states that publicly report such data. Rates ranged from a low of 8 percent in South Carolina to 55 percent in Massachusetts and Oregon.

“High case and death rates may be attributed to a number of factors, including high rates of testing within long-term care facilities and low rates of testing of the general public,” the report states. “Given that not all states are reporting data yet and the continual lag in testing, the counts of cases and deaths are an undercount of the true number of cases and deaths in long-term care facilities.”

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, acknowledged Friday that 53 percent is “a high percentage.”

Shah said Maine’s numbers could be higher because it was among the first states to begin conducting “universal testing” of all long-term care facility residents and staff once three individuals test positive. That likely led to more COVID-19 diagnoses and, thereby, a clear link to the disease when an individual dies.

But Shah said the experiences in Maine and across the nation highlight the challenges of preventing transmission once the virus enters a congregate care facility housing vulnerable individuals.

“We’ve had really robust conversations with the nursing home community about what they need, and then what we need to do to help them get that,” Shah said during his daily briefing Friday. “There’s more coming on that … but what I will say is right now, probably our primary area of focus from an outbreak-prevention and intervention standpoint is among nursing homes.”


Among the 965 Mainers who have tested positive, individuals between 50 and 59 make up the largest contingent at 19.1 percent, which is slightly higher than their share of the population. The next largest group are Mainers in their 60s at 17.3 percent followed by individuals in their 70s at 14.2 percent.

Just over 54 percent of confirmed cases are among women, which is just higher than their 51 percent share of the population. But men account for more than 60 percent of the deaths.

Unlike health agencies in many states and other countries, the U.S. CDC does not track coronavirus cases or deaths by gender.

Cumberland County remains the COVID-19 hotspot, both in terms of total cases and infection rates among the larger population. The 426 confirmed cases represents one infection for every 692 county residents. In York County, which had 191 cases as of Friday, the infection rate was one in every 1,087 residents while in Waldo County – where the Tall Pines nursing home accounts for 42 of 47 cases – the rate was one in every 845 residents.


Roughly 25 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Maine are among health care workers.

One factor for the high percentage among health care workers, as well as among long-term care facilities, is that they are among the highest-priority groups for testing because of limited capacity and supplies nationwide.

At MaineHealth, the state’s largest hospital and health care network, approximately 1,500 staff members have been tested for the virus to date. That represents slightly less than 10 percent of all tests run in the state, based on the 965 positive tests and 16,784 negative tests reported by the Maine CDC this week.

Dr. Mills, the former Maine CDC director and now chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth, said those test results suggest the virus is circulating more widely in the population than some expected.

“You have to keep in mind that they are the only profession that is being routinely tested, even when they are displaying mild symptoms,” said Mills, who is the sister of Gov. Janet Mills. “In the vast majority of cases we’ve seen, and we’ve tested about 1,500 people … (among) those who test positive, a large proportion of them seem to have gotten it out in the community. They weren’t taking care of patients at the time that they would have been exposed.”

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