The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported 25 cases of the novel coronavirus and no new deaths, a slight increase in infections as the state nears a July 1 deadline to reopen more of its economy.
Total cases in Maine have now reached 2,938 since the beginning of the pandemic, of which 2,610 have been confirmed by testing and another 328 are considered probable cases. There have been 102 deaths associated with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Subtracting numbers of people who have recovered – 2,380 – and died, there were 456 active cases on Saturday. That’s a drop from Friday’s total of 488.
Despite the overall leveling of case numbers and hospitalizations, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, noted on Friday that the coronavirus had disproportionately affected people in minority communities.
“We acknowledge that there is more work to do with respect to the unacceptable racial/ethnic disparities around COVID-19 in Maine,” Shah said on Twitter Friday. He referenced data that show although Black or African Americans make up 1.6 percent of Maine’s population, they account for roughly 23 percent of coronavirus cases.
3/We acknowledge that there is more work to do with respect to the unacceptable racial/ethnic disparities around #COVID19 in #Maine. #COVID19 has shone a light these disparities. And we are working to address those from every angle.
— Nirav D. Shah (@nirav_mainecdc) June 19, 2020
Job numbers from the Maine Department of Labor this past week revealed a dire situation for the state’s economy over the month of May.
Although the official unemployment rate was 9.3 percent in May, down 1.3 percent from April, that statistic does not include about 125,000 people who were either misclassified or not counted as unemployed in surveys used to determine the jobless rate.
Adding in those thousands of out-of-work Mainers, about 18 percent, or nearly a fifth, of the state’s population is unemployed.
Still, Maine employers added 14,300 jobs in May, most of them in industries like leisure and hospitality that took sharp knocks at the beginning of the pandemic.
On Friday, the administration of Gov. Janet Mills informed Maine lawmakers of plans to use $270 million in federal pandemic relief aid to bolster the state’s unemployment compensation trust fund. The aid money would replenish the state’s unemployment fund, which has already paid the same amount to laid-off workers between April and June.
The fund was at $500 million before the pandemic, capable of paying out $8 million a week for up to 16 months; it’s now being tapped for a weekly $22 million. At that rate, it will be empty by September, said Administrative and Financial Services Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa.
Though Maine has kept hospitalization rates comparatively low, the world is now entering a “new and dangerous” phase as the pandemic accelerates in the Americas, as well as the Middle East and South Asia, the World Health Organization warned Friday. The world saw 150,000 new cases on Thursday, the largest rise yet in a single day, according to the WHO.
With coronavirus simmering as a public health threat for the indefinite future, tourism-dependent states such as Maine and Hawaii are walking a tightrope between pandemic restrictions and welcoming out-of-staters for business.
Some states, such as Hawaii, have stuck to quarantine requirements for people visiting from elsewhere. Others, Maine included, are allowing visitors to forgo a two-week isolation period if they test negative for COVID-19. Either way, the web of restrictions, which vary from state to state – and sometimes depend on which state you’re coming from – has travelers confused, and in some cases, staying home.
County by county on Saturday, there were 448 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 11 in Aroostook, 1,534 in Cumberland, 38 in Franklin, 14 in Hancock, 137 in Kennebec, 24 in Knox, 21 in Lincoln, 34 in Oxford, 102 in Penobscot, two in Piscataquis, 30 in Sagadahoc, 26 in Somerset, 55 in Waldo, two in Washington, and 458 in York.
By age, 6.8 percent of patients were under 20, 15.2 percent were in their 20s, 15.4 percent were in their 30s, 15.7 percent were in their 40s, 16.8 percent were in their 50s, 12 percent were in their 60s, 8.9 percent were in their 70s, and 9.1 percent were 80 or older.
Women still are the majority of cases, at 51.2 percent.
On Saturday, Maine’s hospitals had 29 COVID-19 patients, of whom 13 were in intensive care and five were on ventilators. The state’s medical facilities have 133 intensive care unit beds available of a total 384, and 254 ventilators available of 319. There are also 441 alternative ventilators that can breathe for patients with acute cases.
Around the world on Saturday, there were 8.7 million cases of COVID-19 and 461,000 deaths. The United States had more than 2.2 million cases and over 119,000 deaths.