Maine continues to resist further pandemic restrictions even as the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reaches record levels, and as other states have put in place some of their strictest measures since the spring.

State health officials reported 246 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the second-highest one-day total to date, as the pandemic continues to accelerate here. One additional death was reported as well, bringing the state’s total to 166.

Tuesday’s case total was just shy of the daily record of 248 set Thursday. The seven-day average of daily new cases climbed to 190.3, compared to 91.1 two weeks ago, and just 30 a month ago, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, was asked Tuesday whether the state is considering further restrictions. Although he didn’t rule anything out, he said much of the recent spread has been tied to smaller, household gatherings, which are harder to police.

“Those discussions are underway,” Shah said on Maine Public’s “Maine Calling” radio program. “All options remain on the table.”

Westbrook firefighter Conor Battaglia discards a wrapper after collecting a sample at free drive-up COVID-19 testing at the Westbrook Public Safety building on Tuesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Overall, there have been 9,363 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Maine since the pandemic began. Nationally, the seven-day average of new cases is 150,000 per day, triple the 50,000 cases per day in the U.S. in early October, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project website. More than 240,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19.


The death recorded in Maine on Tuesday was a woman in her 90s from York County. She was a resident of Durgin Pines, a Kittery nursing home where five people have died and 61 staff members and residents have tested positive.

As the pandemic surges across the country, many states are dialing back planned reopenings and placing new restrictions on activities such as indoor dining, the size of gatherings and even curfews for bars and restaurants.

In early November, Maine expanded its requirement for people to wear masks in public settings and indefinitely delayed the openings of bars, among other measures. This week, Maine added Massachusetts to the list of states whose residents must produce a negative test result within 72 hours of visiting Maine or quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Gov. Janet Mills could still impose additional restrictions, and she hasn’t been shy about prioritizing public health throughout the pandemic.

Other states have started to become more restrictive in recent days.

• In Massachusetts, residents now must stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they are working or doing essential tasks. Restaurants must close for indoor dining at 9:30 p.m.


• In New Jersey, indoor gatherings are now limited to 10 people or fewer, reduced from 25.

• Washington state has limited bars and restaurants to outdoor dining only with capacity limits, and prohibited indoor social gatherings with people from outside the home, unless participants quarantine for 14 days prior, or quarantine for seven days before the gathering and receive a negative test two days before the gathering.

• Starting Wednesday in Oregon, social gatherings are limited to six people and restaurants are limited to delivery and takeout only.

• California, Michigan, Minnesota, Connecticut and New Mexico also have announced new restrictions in the last week.

Shah said Maine is dealing with new outbreaks all the time – including 14 new investigations over the weekend alone – but also is seeing increasing growth in community spread, or in cases not tied to outbreaks.

“The ground has been seeded in ever-increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases,” Shah said Monday.


Asked why it might be happening, he suggested that while people might wear masks in public settings, they are less likely to wear them in their homes, even when they have guests over. He said on the “Maine Calling” program that your “cousin’s dinner party” is likely a place where the virus can transmit. Next week’s Thanksgiving holiday poses major concerns as well.

New cases were reported Tuesday in all but two counties, Waldo and Piscataquis. Cumberland County saw the most, with 60, followed by York at 46; Androscoggin, 28; Penobscot, 24; and Kennebec and Somerset at 20 each.

Hospitalizations also continue to increase. As of Tuesday, 73 people were hospitalized in Maine, including 29 in critical care and eight on a ventilator. Since March, 589 individuals have been hospitalized at some point.

Although hospitals are concerned about the surge, the number of critical care beds available remains sufficient.

Despite the grim situation both here and across the country, scientists have received promising news during the past week on the vaccine front.

Two vaccine candidates developed by Moderna and Pfizer have shown 90 percent or better effectiveness, and both companies will likely seek emergency use authorization from the federal government this month. The first vaccines could be given before the end of the year, with widespread rollout in 2021. Among the first in line to be immunized will be health care workers and first responders.

Shah said the Pfizer vaccine’s ultra-cold storage requirement – including freezers that can maintain minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit) – poses logistical difficulties, such as making it hard to store the vaccine in enough places to be easily accessible for the general population. The Moderna vaccine, in contrast, can be stored for 30 days in a refrigerator, or longer in a freezer.

“The Pfizer vaccine will require bringing people to the vaccine, but with the Moderna vaccine, we can bring the vaccine to the people,” Shah said during Monday’s media briefing.

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