Maine health officials reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, more than half of them in increasingly hard-hit York County, but no additional deaths.
The state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention has now tracked 4,734 confirmed or probable cases since the coronavirus pandemic hit, along with 134 deaths.
The seven-day average number of daily cases on Wednesday was 25.1, down slightly from the seven-day average of 29.7 on Sept. 3. However, cases have been steadily rising since bottoming out at an average of 13.1 cases on Aug. 12, the lowest since the early days of the pandemic in mid-to-late March.
Of the 23 new cases Wednesday, 14 were in York County, which is dealing with several active outbreaks that Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah called “deeply concerning” on Tuesday. The state has reported two new outbreaks at private social clubs in Sanford, in addition to outbreaks at York County Jail in Alfred, Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, Seal Rock Health Care nursing home in Saco and the Sanford Fire Department. None of the new cases reported Wednesday were associated with any of those outbreaks, the Maine CDC said.
The jail outbreak is directly linked to an Aug. 7 wedding and reception in the Millinocket area that has been connected to 158 cases and three deaths across the state as of Tuesday. A jail employee attended that wedding.
So far, 80 percent of all Maine’s cases have been in Cumberland, York or Androscoggin counties – along with 78 percent of all hospitalizations and 71 percent of deaths – but York County has emerged as the current epicenter of the virus in Maine.
The county’s active COVID-19 case count per capita on Aug. 28 had surged ahead of Cumberland County’s for the first time and on Thursday stood at 7.4 per 10,000 residents, compared to six for Cumberland and five for Androscoggin.
York County’s seven-day rolling average of new confirmed cases hit an all-time high of 13 per day Thursday, a per-capita rate nearly quadruple that of Cumberland County and far and away the highest in the state. On Friday the state downgraded York County’s readiness for school reopening because of the elevated risk of virus transmission, making it the only Maine county that is classified as yellow rather green under the color-coded system.
Public K-12 schools opened in many parts of the state this week and other districts are preparing to welcome back students, at least part time, beginning next week. The state will monitor schools closely for any outbreaks.
So far, Maine’s colleges and universities have been spared from major outbreaks that have plagued other states. As of Wednesday, the University of Maine System had just seven active cases.
Despite the concern in York County, the number of active cases statewide dropped to 465 on Wednesday, 28 fewer than a day earlier. The number of hospitalizations remains low in Maine as well. As of Wednesday, just nine people were hospitalized, although seven were in critical condition. Since March, 429 people have been hospitalized at some point.
The state has increased its testing capacity by more than 100 percent over the past month, to 362 tests per 100,000 people. That’s well above the national average of 224 per 100,000.