Maine Gov. Janet Mills apologized Monday to residents and business owners for reimposing COVID-19 restrictions to combat a recent spike in cases but stressed that she’ll continue making decisions based on epidemiological data.

“Public health data has been our north star,” Mills said during a media briefing. “And the data is telling us that our chart is off course.”

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 84 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as well as one additional death, a woman in her 80s in Androscoggin County. To date, there have been 6,799 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 and 148 individuals have died. The seven-day average increased to 73 cases, more than double the average of 32 just one month ago. The number of active cases – 1,063 – is the highest Maine has seen to date.

Monday’s case total includes some cases that were supposed to be counted in Sunday’s numbers but were not because of a disruption in the data delivery system that reports test results to the Maine CDC. The state reported just 24 new cases Sunday, following two consecutive days of more than 100 cases.

Although the state has been conducting a record amount of testing, which has detected more cases, the seven-day positivity rate is now about 1 percent, which is double what it was two weeks ago.

“We are experiencing community transmission across the state of Maine,” CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. “It’s deeply concerning from a disease control perspective. Up to now, the bulk of cases was driven by focal outbreaks.”


There have been new outbreaks as well, including another associated with a church. Shah said there have been 11 confirmed cases connected to the Deeper Life Assembly of God in Pittsfield. That’s on top of major existing outbreaks at the Brooks Pentecostal Church (60 cases) and the Second Baptist Church in Calais (27 cases).

The Maine Department of Corrections did not provide any updates Monday about an outbreak at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. On Thursday, the department reported 12 inmates and six employees at the prison had tested positive for COVID-19.

A daily update on the department’s website now lists 23 positive cases among inmates there, but that dashboard does not include any information about employee tests. A spokeswoman did not answer multiple questions about the outbreak Monday and said testing was ongoing.

Last week, 480 people were incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center and the neighboring Southern Maine Women’s Re-entry Center, and the number of employees between the two facilities was an estimated 260.

Shah also said an outbreak connected to Pat’s Pizza in Portland’s Old Port has risen to 22 cases. Other outbreaks are under investigation at long-term care facilities – Sandy River Center in Farmington (seven), Woodlands Memory Care in Rockland (18) and Durgin Pines in Kittery (nine).

Mills said she and her team have been monitoring Maine’s troubling trend for days and made the decision Sunday to alter her reopening plans.


Indoor gatherings – which had been expanded on Oct. 13 to 100 people or 50 percent of permitted occupancy, whichever results in fewer people – were lowered back down to 50 people, regardless of capacity. The gathering limit on outdoor activities remains at 100 people, and occupancy limits for retail businesses also will stay at five people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space.

“I am deeply sorry that we had to make this move and postpone the opening (of bars and tasting rooms) … I know you were ready,” she said. “And we realize this decision is going to cause further economic hardship.

The increased restrictions drew a mixed reaction from business owners, who acknowledged the health concerns behind it but feared more economic uncertainty.

“We cannot have a healthy economy … without a healthy population. It’s more important than ever before that each of us takes responsibility,” the governor said.

In addition, Mills announced that because of rising COVID-19 numbers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, people traveling to Maine from those states are no longer exempt from Maine’s requirement to quarantine for 14 days or receive a negative test. New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts remain exempt for now, though the Mills administration on Sunday urged visitors from those states to get tested anyway.

Mills said on Monday that she’s keeping a close eye on nearby Massachusetts, which has now seen nine straight days of 1,000 cases or more and has gone over 10,000 deaths since the pandemic began.


Shortly before Mills briefed the media, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that he was reducing the limit for indoor private gatherings to 10 people, or 25 people for outdoor gatherings. In-person restaurant dining and liquor sales will stop at 9:30 p.m. until further notice.

“Massachusetts, it looks like it’s on fire,” Mills said, adding that she may remove the quarantine and testing exemption for Massachusetts visitors.

New cases were reported Monday in all but four Maine counties – Sagadahoc, Aroostook, Lincoln and Piscataquis. Cumberland County saw the highest number of new cases, with 22, followed by Androscoggin and Kennebec with 10 each and York and Somerset with nine each.

Shah said on Monday that the rapid rise in cases has made things challenging for CDC contact tracers, whose job it is to identify close contacts of confirmed cases. He said the state has been preparing and has redeployed workers in other state agencies to assist with contact tracing. In several other states where cases have been rising, contact tracers have all but given up, the New York Times reported Sunday.

“We strongly suspected this was coming … but it is a challenge, make no mistake,” Shah said.

In addition to rising case numbers, hospitalizations have been increasing. As of Monday, there were 29 people hospitalized, eight of them in critical care. One month ago, just 11 were hospitalized, with two in critical care. In all, 488 people have been hospitalized at some point since March.

The death reported Monday was the second in three days but before Saturday, there hadn’t been a death in nearly two weeks. Hospitalizations and deaths often lag behind case increases by two weeks or more. Although only 25 percent of the cases in Maine involve individuals over the age of 60, all but 10 deaths have been from that age group.

Cases have been rising all across the country in recent weeks. Last Friday, the number of daily cases went over 100,000 in the United States for the first time and more than 1,000 people died. Since the pandemic began, there have been more than 9 million confirmed cases and 231,000 deaths in this country.

Staff Writer Megan Gray contributed to this report.

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