State health officials reported 22 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, increasing the statewide total to 275.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday that 49 people had been hospitalized at some point during their illness and that 41 people had recovered from the COVID-19 disease, caused by coronavirus. Three people in Maine have died from the disease, including two announced over the weekend, and nearly 6,100 people had tested negative.

“That is a snapshot of a very fast moving train – a train that is gaining acceleration as more and more commercial labs are running more and more tests,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a briefing Monday.

In one alarming trend, 43 of the state’s 275 positive cases – or nearly 16 percent – are health care workers. Shah said the CDC is investigating potential exposures in their workplaces, and made a point of personally thanking workers in the health care industry – including doctors, nurses, custodial staff, cafeteria workers, laundry staff and first responders – for their work during the crisis.

“As thousands of people are staying home, health care workers are doing the exact opposite,” Shah said. “They are racing to the front lines to care for those who are ill and who are in need.”

SUPPLIES STILL NEEDED

Maine was slated to receive its third shipment of additional personal protective equipment, or PPE, from the federal government’s national stockpile as early as Monday evening. That shipment was expected to include about 60,000 N95 respirators masks, 143,000 surgical masks, 31,000 face shields, 25,000 surgical gowns, 1,500 coveralls and 184,000 gloves.

Shah said those supplies will help alleviate short-term needs, but that it was difficult to say whether it will be enough in the long term. He said Maine has received “a paltry amount” and reiterated Gov. Janet Mills’ call on the federal government to release additional supplies, although that is not guaranteed.

“What we understand is that this third shipment may be the last cache that Maine CDC receives for some time,” Shah said. “We are hoping that is not true, but hope is not an operational strategy in an emergency situation and so we are pursuing other avenues to procure and produce additional PPEs in the state.”

On Monday, Maine’s congressional delegation joined in those efforts in a letter sent to Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden wrote that the state is “facing critical challenges” obtaining both PPEs and the chemicals needed to analyze  coronavirus tests.

“As the oldest state in the nation by median age, Maine is particularly vulnerable to the direst impacts of COVID-19,” the delegation wrote to Wolf. ” The state’s proximity to more densely populated areas with active hotspots also makes it a potential refuge destination and increases the risk of spread. Given your role as the head of the department overseeing FEMA and its coordination of the federal COVID-19 response, I urge you to ensure that Maine receives the essential supplies and support needed to care for those suffering from COVID-19 and protect the many more at risk, including our health care workers and first responders.”

GEOGRAPHIC SPREAD

Cumberland County continues to report the highest number of cases at 154 followed by York County with 53. But Penobscot County was up to 12 cases as of Monday, prompting Maine CDC staff to begin looking into whether “community transmission” is taking place.

Referring to critical health care equipment, Shah said Maine now has 176 intensive care beds of which 92 are available, and 309 ventilators, of which 253 are available. In addition, Maine has 87 “alternative ventilators” approved for use by the federal government.

There are three positive cases at a group home in Freeport, Shah said, and also cases in Leeds. Shah cited recent scientific papers highlighting the risks to people in congregate settings, such as nursing homes or shelters.

“Recent data suggests that when COVID-19 is introduced into those settings, it can spread very quickly,” he said.

He said when Maine CDC learns of a case in such a setting it notifies the facility of the case and that a CDC epidemiologist will conduct an investigation. It also asks the facility to notify residents, staff and family members.

CDC also asks managers to consider shutting down to visitors and pursue aggressive sanitizing of the facility, he said.

A woman in her 80s and a man in his 60s, both from Cumberland County, were the second and third people in the state to die from COVID-19, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Video of today’s news conference starts at the 7:40 mark.

The man was a longtime employee of the Maine Department of Transportation, the agency said in a news release Sunday afternoon. The woman has not been identified.

The employee recently had gone on vacation – the agency did not say where – and didn’t return to work afterward, so the danger of infection among his co-workers is low, officials said.

Also on Monday, a staff member at the Mabel I. Wilson School in Cumberland became the third person connected to the school to test positive for coronavirus, Jeffrey Porter, superintendent of Maine School Administrative District 51, told the community in a letter.

The elementary school, which serves 690 students in kindergarten through grade 3, has seen one student and two staff members test positive in less than a week.

Maine reported its first coronavirus fatality on Friday – a Cumberland County man in his 80s.

The virus, which is particularly dangerous to older people and those with compromised immune systems, has reached 12 of Maine’s 16 counties.

Public health officials are warning all Mainers, however, to take precautions, even if cases haven’t been officially diagnosed in their counties yet.

As coronavirus spreads across the state, the Maine CDC is trying to acquire the medicine and equipment needed to treat patients and keep health workers safe.

Shah said Monday that additional chemicals received last week will enable his lab to conduct about 2,000 more tests. In addition, he said the state lab has made progress chipping away at a backlog of tests awaiting analysis, reducing that backlog from 1,300 to 800 in recent days.

Maine has taken emergency measures, closing schools and “nonessential” businesses and encouraging residents to stay indoors, except for such activities as grocery shopping and physical exercise.

As concerns mount about potential transmission of the virus from out-of-state visitors, Maine planned to post messages on electronic sign boards along the Maine Turnpike that direct people coming from areas with high infection rates – such as New York – to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

3 SUPERMARKET EMPLOYEES TEST POSITIVE

It’s not clear how state authorities will enforce that order, though some Maine residents reportedly have taken it on themselves to control the movements of people they believe could spread the virus. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated a report that armed Vinalhaven residents felled a tree to block the driveway of people they believed should be quarantined.

Along with medical professionals, grocery store employees have endured higher-than-average risk as they work on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Hannaford Bros. supermarket chain learned Saturday that a worker at its Oxford store and another at its Scarborough store had tested positive for COVID-19, spokesman Eric Blom said Sunday. Neither employee had worked at the stores for several days, he said, but Hannaford still conducted a “deep and thorough cleaning” at each store. Both locations are open.

“This deep cleaning was in addition to our ongoing, rigorous sanitary practices, and those practices have been greatly expanded during the health crisis,” Blom said in an email.

Shaw’s Supermarkets said Saturday night that an employee at its Congress Street store in Portland had tested positive. The employee last worked a shift on March 23, but the chain did not provide details about the person’s role at the store.

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