The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 236 cases of the novel coronavirus and two more deaths, pushing totals ever higher as the holidays approach.
Public health experts are urging Americans to cancel or limit their holiday plans, but about 2.2 million New Englanders are expected to travel for Thanksgiving this year, according to a forecast by AAA Northern New England. That’s still down about 9 percent from last year’s holiday travel, the largest such decrease since the 2008 recession.
Maine’s cumulative cases rose to 10,359 on Sunday, of which 9,294 have been confirmed by testing and 1,065 are considered probable cases of COVID-19.
One hundred seventy-six people have died with COVID-19 in Maine, and 7,791 have recovered from the disease. Maine had 2,392 active cases on Sunday.
The two people reported Sunday to have died were an Androscoggin County man in his 60s and a Franklin County man in his 80s, the Maine CDC said.
The sharply rising numbers pushed Maine to a new peak on Sunday, with a seven-day daily case average of 204.6. A nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases has finally hit Maine, which enjoyed low case counts through the summer, and public health experts here are asking residents to wear masks and physically distance themselves from others.
Mainers need to take precautions, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, warned last week; otherwise, the rising trend makes it “harder and harder to put a lid on things.”
Last week, Gov. Janet Mills imposed a 9 p.m. closing time for restaurants, movie theaters, tasting rooms and casinos that began Friday and lasts until Dec. 6. She has so far resisted imposing another stay-at-home order.
Meanwhile, trucks may begin rolling into Maine with batches of COVID-19 vaccine as soon as mid-December. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be distributed just as quickly or easily.
Maine CDC officials say they’re planning a large-scale effort to vaccinate as many people as possible, as soon as possible, involving the National Guard, firefighters, paramedics and numerous other health care workers. Two different vaccines are awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; one of them, from Pfizer, must be stored at the ultra-cold temperature of negative 70 degrees Celsius.
Maine has made plans to acquire two freezers in December, and hopes to borrow a massive ultra-cold storage unit from the University of New England, too. The large-scale vaccination effort will unroll in multiple phases, first inoculating people most at risk, starting with health care workers.
The vaccine won’t be available to all Mainers until the fourth phase, after it has been given to health care workers, seniors, school and prison workers, people with underlying health conditions, children and people who work in other high-risk jobs. Still, the Maine CDC says its plans call for vaccinating 80 percent of residents within 12 weeks – about 1.04 million people.
County by county in Maine since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 1,370 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 95 in Aroostook, 3,556 in Cumberland, 194 in Franklin, 213 in Hancock, 668 in Kennebec, 188 in Knox, 134 in Lincoln, 285 in Oxford, 649 in Penobscot, 35 in Piscataquis, 134 in Sagadahoc, 402 in Somerset, 210 in Waldo, 178 in Washington, and 2,040 in York.
By age, 13 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.3 percent were in their 20s, 15.2 percent were in their 30s, 13.2 percent were in their 40s, 15.4 percent were in their 50s, 11.5 percent were in their 60s, 7.3 percent were in their 70s, and 6.2 percent were 80 or older.
Women still make up a slight majority of cases, at just over 51 percent.
Updated hospital capacity data weren’t yet available early Sunday morning. On Saturday, Maine’s hospitals had 86 patients with COVID-19, of whom 41 were in intensive care and 11 were on ventilators. The state had 93 intensive care unit beds available of a total 374, and 248 ventilators available of 315. There were also 444 alternative ventilators.
Around the world on Sunday, there were 58.2 million known cases of COVID-19 and close to 1.4 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had over 12 million cases and just under 256,000 deaths.
This story will be updated.