The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 36 new cases of the novel coronavirus, the fifth straight day with 30 or more new cases reported.

The report brings total cumulative cases in Maine to 2,793, of which 2,486 have been confirmed by testing and 307 are considered “probable” cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. No new deaths were reported, leaving that figure at 100.

Subtracting the number of people who have recovered – 2,173 – and died, there were 520 active cases on Sunday, an increase of 15 from the day before.

Hospitalizations for the coronavirus have continued to fall throughout Maine over the past week, even as more people are testing positive for the disease. On Sunday, for a second consecutive day, there were 29 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine. The seven-day average of hospitalizations for the period ending Sunday was 30.4 patients, compared to 54.9 hospitalizations for the one-week period ending May 31.

On June 1 Maine entered Stage 2 of its economic reopening plan, which increased the limit on public gatherings from 10 to 50 people and opened many state beaches and retail stores.

The latest figures bolster hopes that Maine will be able to control the virus as the state reopens.

Maine hospitals, however, are struggling with the financial burden of having had to be prepared for an onslaught of coronavirus cases while severely limiting elective and preventative care. Maine’s three dozen hospitals have lost $250 million a month since the pandemic hit the state.

 

In southern Maine, which has seen more cases than other parts of the state, major hospitals are far below their peaks of COVID-19 patients. Maine Medical Center in Portland had between eight and 11 patients during the week ending Thursday, down from a peak of 35 that the hospital reached twice, in early April and late May.

Another key indicator, the total positivity rate for COVID-19 tests, has continued to fall as testing capacity expands. Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said Sunday on Twitter that only 2.94 percent of 1,529 tests conducted the day before had come up positive. Maine’s state laboratory is poised to have the ability to conduct over 4,500 tests daily.

Meanwhile, the reopening has sparked conversations about how to divvy up relief funds, as well as who has the authority to guide individual reopening decisions, especially in school districts.

 

The Maine Department of Education last week said it, and not individual districts, would decide how and when to bring students back to school.

Several superintendents, including those in Gorham and Freeport, said their teachers and students would much prefer to return to in-person learning, something a small, private school in South Freeport, which is also a child care center, has been doing since May 20. Going back to school may be possible, the department said, but only with a long list of precautions that includes face masks, rigorous cleaning, physical distancing, and added ventilation to bring outside air into classrooms.

As the normally lucrative summer vacation season gets underway, tourism and hospitality industry leaders are asking for a significant piece of the federal aid intended to pay for Maine’s coronavirus costs.

On Friday, the industry pitched an $800 million bailout plan that would take the bulk of a $1.25 billion federal relief package to revive the state’s tourism industry, which has been devastated by travel and gathering restrictions, as well as the general economic fallout.

 

Gov. Janet Mills said she welcomed proposals from all industry leaders about how to use the funds. On Friday, she also bumped up a deadline to reopen paid lodging around the state, pushing it five days earlier, to June 26.

Nationwide, the vast majority of Americans are sticking to precautions such as face masks and social distancing, even as parts of the country continue to reopen, a new study has found. Roughly 90 percent of people are wearing masks when they go outside, according to a poll from NORC at the University of Chicago for the Data Foundation. Several recently released studies support face mask use as a means of slowing the virus spread.

Of the 29 patients in Maine hospitals with COVID-19 on Sunday, 10 were in intensive care and five were on ventilators. The state had 176 intensive care unit beds available of a total 402, and 260 ventilators available of 318. There were also 441 alternative ventilators statewide.

County by county in Maine, as of Sunday, there have been 425 cumulative coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 10 in Aroostook, 1,434 in Cumberland, 37 in Franklin, 13 in Hancock, 136 in Kennebec, 22 in Knox, 21 in Lincoln, 33 in Oxford, 102 in Penobscot, one in Piscataquis, 30 in Sagadahoc, 25 in Somerset, 55 in Waldo, one in Washington, and 446 in York. Two cases have an unknown county origin.

By age, 6.5 percent of patients were under 20, while 15.4 percent were in their 20s, 15.2 percent were in their 30s, 15.5 percent were in their 40s, 17.1 percent were in their 50s, 12.3 percent were in their 60s, 9 percent were in their 70s, and 9.2 percent were 80 or older.

Maine’s CDC also tracks cases by race and ethnicity. Black or African Americans account for 638 cases, or 26.3 percent, of the 2,425 cases where race was identified. Maine’s overall population is 1.6 percent black or African American, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Women still are the majority of cases, at 51.1 percent.

Around the world on Sunday evening, there were 7.8 million cases of COVID-19 and 432,000 deaths. The United States led other countries with more than 2 million cases and over 115,000 deaths.

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