The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 221 cases of the novel coronavirus and no additional deaths, another heavy increase to Maine’s caseload as the state’s leaders look forward to a vaccine.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations reached an all-time high of 171 across the state, and an entire fire station shift called out sick in Portland after a member tested positive for COVID-19.

Maine’s cumulative cases rose to 13,348 on Sunday, of which 11,801 have been confirmed by testing and 1,547 are considered probable cases of COVID-19.

In recent weeks the rise in hospitalizations has been concentrated in eastern and central Maine, but Maine Medical Center last week also returned to peak numbers of COVID-19 inpatients, with 35 on Thursday.

The surge in cases in Maine has public health officials considering scaling back their contact tracing efforts, which are meant to limit spread of the disease, and instead are looking forward to rapid delivery of one or more expected vaccines.

Two hundred twenty-seven people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine, and 10,080 have recovered from the disease. Maine had 3,041 active cases on Sunday.

Gov. Janet Mills on Saturday announced she had tested negative for COVID-19 after being exposed to a member of her security detail who lated tested positive for the illness.

“Masks work! And I’m proof,” the governor said in a statement.

Mills said she believed she would have contracted COVID-19 if the infected person hadn’t been wearing a mask while they were riding in the same car on Nov. 28. The governor has been in quarantine since Dec. 1, when the security guard showed symptoms, and will remain in isolation until at least Dec. 8, her office said. She has continued to discharge her official duties remotely.

In response to “ferocious” levels of transmission across the state, the Maine CDC announced last week it was considering scaling back its contact tracing program. Because tracers are stretched so thin by the growing caseload, the agency might concentrate more on vulnerable populations rather than attempt to track every known outbreak. A decision is expected Monday.

Maine’s seven-day average of daily new cases still stands at 265.3, the same as Saturday, and a record high.

Meanwhile, Maine’s public health leaders last week asked the federal government for more help in distributing coming vaccines. Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Saturday to ask federal officials to give more resources to the states to help get shots in arms.

Maine initially expected to receive about 40,000 doses in its first shipment of a vaccine from Pfizer, but last week learned that the number would be closer to 13,000 – a third of the expected amount. Federal officials haven’t responded to questions about the discrepancy.

An entire shift at the Portland Fire Department’s Bramhall station called out sick on Sunday, according to News Center Maine. A member of the Sunday shift at the station, which is on Congress Street near Maine Medical Center, tested positive for COVID-19, and other crew members took sick days out of an abundance of caution, a union representative for firefighters said.

A city official said replacements were found for the shift, so there would be no interruption to public services.

County by county in Maine since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 1,692 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 188 in Aroostook, 4,173 in Cumberland, 258 in Franklin, 311 in Hancock, 986 in Kennebec, 225 in Knox, 180 in Lincoln, 465 in Oxford, 1,087 in Penobscot, 60 in Piscataquis, 181 in Sagadahoc, 492 in Somerset, 259 in Waldo, 197 in Washington, and 2,592 in York.

By age, 13.1 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.

Of the 171 patients with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals on Sunday, 50 were in intensive care and 18 were on ventilators. The state had 103 intensive care unit beds available of a total 385, and 246 ventilators available of 315. There were also 444 alternative ventilators.

Around the world on Sunday night, there were 66.9 million known cases of COVID-19 and 1.5 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 14.7 million cases and 282,231 deaths.


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