The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported 283 cases of the novel coronavirus and three additional deaths as the state struggles to bridge the gap between a surge in infections and the expected pending release of a vaccine.

Warning of “ferocious levels of community transmission,” the Maine CDC on Friday said it would re-evaluate its contact tracing strategy, which has been stretched dangerously thin. The state’s public health authorities say they’re considering focusing more on vulnerable populations than on attempting to track every case. An announcement may come Monday, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC.

Maine’s cumulative cases rose to 13,127 on Saturday, of which 11,640 have been confirmed by testing and 1,487 are considered probable cases of COVID-19.

Maine’s seven-day average of daily new cases now stands at 265.3, a record high in a series of recent broken records. The state added 1,619 cases over the past week, and 36 Mainers have died with COVID-19 during the same period.

Two hundred twenty-seven people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine, and 9,993 have recovered from the disease. Maine had 2,907 active cases on Saturday. The people reported Saturday to have died were a Waldo County man in his 70s, an Androscoggin County woman in her 80s and a York County woman in her 70s, the Maine CDC said.

Federal and state officials this past week declined to explain why Maine’s first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine expected to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration was unexpectedly slashed by two-thirds. Public health experts in Maine and at Harvard University had expected the state to receive about 36,000 doses in its first federal allocation of a Pfizer vaccine, but Gov. Janet Mills said Maine’s share had been reduced to about 12,675 doses.


Federal officials didn’t answer questions from Maine leaders about what happened, nor did they respond to questions from the Press Herald.

Shah, the Maine CDC director, appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Saturday to explain Maine’s vaccine distribution plan. He also urged the federal government to provide more support to states’ vaccine drives. Those efforts will require not only manpower, storage and distribution resources, Shah said, but also communication with the members of the public to remind them about follow-up shots and show them that the vaccine is safe and effective.

“The more resources that we can have from the federal government, that will enable us to achieve our goals of vaccinating with velocity and equity that much more quickly,” Shah said.

Maine’s vaccine plans call for four stages of distribution to the public, starting with the highest-risk people, such as health care workers, and eventually making it to everyone. The plan aims to vaccinate about 80 percent of the population within 12 weeks.

Mills herself was briefly exposed to a person with COVID-19, a member of her Maine State Police security detail, and took a test on Thursday, according to spokeswoman Lindsay Crete. Mills announced late Saturday afternoon that she had tested negative for the coronavirus.

“The Governor continues to carry out her duties, reviewing documents, discussing policy matters and conducting meetings virtually as she has for the past nine months,” Crete said in an email earlier Saturday about Mills, who will remain in quarantine at least through Tuesday. “She feels fine and has no symptoms whatsoever. She is grateful to the Maine people who are taking the pandemic seriously and doing their part to minimize the spread of this virus. She urges all Maine people to wear a mask, watch their distance, and wash their hands.”


Mills also announced Friday that she is extending to Jan. 3 a statewide 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants and other businesses. It had been scheduled to expire Sunday.

County by county in Maine since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 1,673 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 178 in Aroostook, 4,097 in Cumberland, 251 in Franklin, 310 in Hancock, 962 in Kennebec, 226 in Knox, 178 in Lincoln, 451 in Oxford, 1,057 in Penobscot, 60 in Piscataquis, 180 in Sagadahoc, 487 in Somerset, 256 in Waldo, 197 in Washington, and 2,559 in York.

By age, 13 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.5 percent were in their 20s, 14.8 percent were in their 30s, 13.1 percent were in their 40s, 15.4 percent were in their 50s, 11.7 percent were in their 60s, 7.2 percent were in their 70s, and 6.3 percent were 80 or older.

Women still make up a slight majority of cases, at just over 51 percent.

Updated hospital capacity data weren’t available on Saturday. On Friday, Maine hospitals had 164 patients with COVID-19, of whom 45 were in intensive care and 17 were on ventilators. The state had 95 intensive care unit beds available of a total 385, and 230 ventilators available of 315. There were also 444 alternative ventilators.

Around the world on Saturday evening, there were 66.3 million known cases of COVID-19 and 1.5 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 14.5 million cases and 280,634 deaths.

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