Three more Maine residents have died of the coronavirus, bringing the state's death toll to 39, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said Wednesday.
The new deaths include a woman in her 70s and a man in his 80s -- both from Waldo County -- and a woman in her 70s from Cumberland County.
Statewide, there are 907 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, with 222 health care workers who tested positive as of Wednesday, Shah said.
As Shah and other officials point to testing and contact tracing as ways to reopen public spaces and businesses, another Maine company is adding its name to the lost of firms helping identify who has COVID-19: Idexx.
The Westbrook-based company said Monday that it and a subsidiary will produce two different kinds of COVID-19 tests. One, for humans, is in early release stages. The other, which the company says will be rolled out to veterinarians in North America this week, is for pets like cats and ferrets, which in rare cases can contract COVID-19.
On the human front, Maine is showing some encouraging signs that it is identifying enough people with COVID-19 that could allow the state to make informed decisions about handling the crisis.
“Right now Maine’s rate of positivity stands at about five percent, which is significantly lower than what it’s been in many other states,” Shah said.
The good testing news stands in contrast with a problem the governor’s office believes it has found with a White House report that it says does not have an accurate sense of Maine’s testing capacity and cites testing equipment the state says that it does not have.
It also says the White House missed a large lab that is in Maine that is doing testing.
Asked for a copy of the White House document, Lindsay Crete, a spokeswoman for the Mills administration provided a copy of a line she says was in it precluding her from releasing it to the public:
All machine location information is confidential and proprietary to the manufacturers. This information is being shared with the consent of the manufacturers for official use only. Unauthorized release of this information could affect competitive position in the commercial marketplace. This information is not subject to disclosure under 5 U.S.C. Section 552(b)(4). If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution of reliance upon the contents is strictly prohibited. Any disclosure of machine location information must be made with the express permission of the manufacturers.
The numbers issue aside, Crete said that Mills and her public health team are pushing the federal government to expand testing capacity, something Shah touched on as well on Wednesday.
“We also still know we need to expand our testing capacity,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure that each and every health care provider in Maine can offer a test to any of his or her patients without feat the test might get rejected because of resource constraints.”
The state has had a total of nearly 17,000 negative tests, Shah said, citing data published once a week due to the number of clinics testing patients across the state.
According to the Maine CDC, 145 people have been hospitalized at some point during the course of their illness, with 24 who are currently in regular beds and 18 in the ICU.
Shah said Maine CDC is monitoring outbreaks in long-term care facilities, with three new cases at Edgewood Residential Care Facility in Farmington. The agency said it's sending testing kits to the facility so staff and residents "can be swabbed and the results reported as soon as possible."
Shah said a total of 190 positive cases have been reported in long-term care and assisted living facilities, with 123 residents and 67 staff members.
These include 40 positive cases at Tall Pines Retirement and Health Care Community in Belfast, with 10 residents who died, 47 at the Maine Veteran's Home facility in Scarborough, 74 at the Augusta Center for Health and Rehabilitation, 15 at Falmouth by the Sea in Falmouth and 11 at the assisted living facility The Cedars in Portland.
Maine CDC said it is aware of a new outbreak at the John F. Murphy Home in Auburn, with 2 members of the staff and a resident who tested positive.
Shah said Maine CDC is continuing to work on increasing testing kit capacity, with the goal to have "each and every health care provider with the ability to test everybody they need to."