Before the crowd arrives Monday morning, a sign encourages visitors to Old Orchard Beach to wear masks. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Maine reported 19 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and no new deaths, continuing a trend that places it among the states with the lowest rate of COVID-19 prevalence despite increased testing.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, noted the positive trends in a series of tweets but urged against “complacency.”

“Though some of our COVID-19 metrics are stable compared to other states right now, it’s important that they not become cause for complacency,” Shah said in a tweet. “We are still in this, and I ask everyone not to let up with respect to physical distancing and face coverings. Like a weather system moving its way across the country, the COVID-19 spikes being seen in other cases could happen in Maine.”

Overall, Maine has had 3,558 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began and 114 deaths, according to the Maine CDC. Fourteen additional Mainers have recovered from the virus, for a total of 3,008 recoveries since the first case was recorded here.

Many states are seeing their cases surge, especially Florida, Arizona, Texas and California.

There are several key metrics that public health experts look at to determine how well a state is controlling the coronavirus, and Maine is one of only four states to be in the “trending better” category, according to the Covid Exit Strategy website. The site is the work of a nonpartisan group of public health experts with experience working in the public sector, including several U.S. presidential administrations.

The website looks at virus prevalence and several other factors to color code states from “green, trending better” to yellow, red and “bruised red,” which means “uncontrolled spread.” The states joining Maine in the “green” category are New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Seventeen states are in the “bruised red” category, including all of the Deep South, Texas, California, Arizona and Nevada.

In Maine, hospitalizations ticked down Monday, with 18 people hospitalized, eight using intensive care beds and three on ventilators. On Sunday, 19 Mainers were in the hospital with COVID-19, with nine in intensive care beds and three on ventilators. Hospitalizations peaked in late May at 60.

Also, Maine has the lowest estimated virus reproduction rate in the country at 0.87, according to the rt.live website, a nonpartisan, nonprofit site that draws on data from the Covid Tracking Project, which compiles state and federal COVID-19 numbers. R(t) is a measure of how much the virus is spreading to other people. If the rate is below one, that means control measures are being effective and the virus should fizzle out. Anything above one is a danger, and if it’s much higher than slightly above one, the virus could potentially have exponential spread.

 

 

Click to see up-to-date values for Rt, a key measure of how fast the virus is growing.

The seven-day average of daily new cases in Maine stood at 19.3 on Monday, compared to 29.1 a week ago and a late May peak of 52.6.

With the low prevalence of the virus, school officials across Maine are looking at how to open K-12 schools this fall. It’s a complicated question, but Dr. Dora Anne Mills, vice president of community health for MaineHealth, the parent company of Maine Medical Center in Portland, published a lengthy blog post Monday detailing how schools could reopen.

Mills, the sister of Gov. Janet Mills and a former director of the Maine CDC, wrote that low case rates and lack of community transmission are crucial for reopening schools.

“Reopening schools is heavily dependent on how much COVID-19 transmission there is in the state or community,” Mills wrote. “While there are no clear criteria for the case incidence, test positivity rate, and/or hospitalization or death incidence needed for schools to reopen safely, experience in other countries indicates that school outbreaks are more likely to occur if there is significant community transmission.”

The Maine CDC has said that community transmission is occurring in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties.


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