Another 54 coronavirus cases reported, as more Maine businesses reopen

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 54 new coronavirus cases on Friday but no additional deaths among individuals with COVID-19.

Friday marks three months since Maine CDC recorded the state’s first case of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus. Since then, the total number of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases had risen to 2,721 as of Friday, according to the latest figures from Maine CDC.

A man wears a protective mask while walking at the Eastern Promenade on Thursday, June 11. Staff photo by Derek Davis

The number of deaths among residents with COVID-19 held steady at 100 for the third straight day.

The tally of active cases in the state — calculated by subtracting the 100 deaths and 2,105 recovered individuals who have recovered from the disease — increased by 11 on Friday to 516. Maine’s active cases have been trending downward during the past two weeks, however, declining from an average of 628 cases for the seven-day period ending on June 6 to an average of 548 cases for the period ending Friday.

The case count only captures a portion of the virus’s actual presence in Maine because not everyone suspected of having the disease has been tested — due largely to limited testing capacity during the first two months of the pandemic — and because research has shown that some infected individuals never exhibit symptoms.

Even so, Maine’s infection rate is lower than rates in the majority of other states.

According to The New York Times’ detailed COVID-19 case tracking system, Maine has had 198 cases for every 100,000 residents, which is the 10th lowest in the country and the second-lowest among the six New England states. The rates in Massachusetts and Connecticut, both of which have been hit hard by the virus, were 1,519 and 1,247 infections for every 100,000 individuals.

Hospitalization rates of individuals with COVID-19 also continue to fall across the state, including in Cumberland County, which accounts for just over 50 percent of Maine’s cases.

Gov. Janet Mills and health officials within her administration have cited Maine’s lower prevalence rate to justify lifting many restrictions to allow businesses to reopen, including bars and tasting rooms for outdoor service starting Friday in 13 of Maine’s 16 counties.

But some business owners and trade groups, particularly in the hospitality sector, portray Mills reopening plan as overly cautious and predict it will not draw enough out-of-state visitors to Maine this summer to keep many tourism-dependent businesses afloat.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, is slated to provide an update on the coronavirus situation in Maine at 2 p.m. He will be joined by Commissioner Heather Johnson of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, which is implementing Mills’ phased reopening plan.

On Thursday, Shah noted that the percent of tests that come back as positive for COVID-19 is gradually falling even as more Mainers are tested. As of Thursday, Maine’s overall “positivity rate” for all genetic-based tests conducted to date stood at 4.64 percent on Thursday, compared to more than 5 percent several weeks ago, and the rate for tests conducted during the previous 24-hour period was 2.69 percent.

“The trends are suggesting that we are heading in the right direction but that we also need to simultaneously keep up this momentum so we can drive both of those numbers as low as possible,” Shah said during Wednesday’s briefing.

This story will be updated.

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