5% of coronavirus tests are positive in Maine, official says

April 22, 2020 GMT
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Shops at the Freeport Village Station remain closed as the coronavirus shutdown of non-essential businesses continues, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, in Freeport, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
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Shops at the Freeport Village Station remain closed as the coronavirus shutdown of non-essential businesses continues, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, in Freeport, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The director of the Maine Center for Disease Control said it’s likely there are more coronavirus cases that the state doesn’t know about, but he said he’s heartened that only 5% of tests are positive.

The low percentage suggests the state is not as far behind on testing as some other states that have positive rates closer to 20%, Dr. Nirav Shah told reporters Wednesday.

“This is one of those situations where lower is better. But we know we need to expand our testing capacity,” Shah said.

The state is working to expand its testing for people infected with the new coronavirus and is exploring testing for antibodies that demonstrate a past exposure to the virus among healthy people who’ve recovered or never showed signs of illness.

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Testing will factor into the Mills administration’s decision on when to begin a phased-in reopening of the state economy. No decision has been made.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

In other coronavirus-related developments in Maine:

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THE NUMBERS

Three more people died from the coronavirus, and the number of people who tested positive topped 900 in the state, Shah said Wednesday.

The new figures bring the number of deaths to 39 in Maine, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of active cases has been leveling off, but state officials said it’s too early to say Maine has turned the corner. Maine’s numbers are small enough that data can be easily skewed by day-to-day changes, officials said.

RESPIRATOR MASKS

Maine received less than a third fewer protective respirator masks per resident from the national stockpile than Vermont or Rhode Island, but more than three times that of Texas, a newspaper reported.

The Portland Press Herald analysis shows the N95 masks, which filter out 95% of all airborne particles, weren’t allocated based on population, as the Trump administration had indicated.

As of April 6, Maine had received 86,008 N95s from the stockpile, or one for every 15.6 state inhabitants. Vermont received one for every 4.7 of its citizens, while Rhode Island got one for every five. Hard-hit Massachusetts got fewer — one for every 28 people, and Texas received one for every 48.

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“Whatever methodology this administration is using, there’s no transparency or accountability to it,” Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, said.

Partisan politics didn’t appear to have played a factor in which states got larger shipments, the newspaper reported.

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CHILD CARE

The federal government, along with two philanthropic organizations, are helping health care workers by paying for child care.

The Harold Alfond Foundation and the Bill & Joan Alfond Foundation have teamed up to cover MaineGeneral costs of providing child care for its employees during the pandemic, to the tune of $350,000, officials said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, nearly $11 million in federal funds will also support access to child care for Maine’s essential workers, including health care professionals and first responders, state officials said.

Child care providers affected by the pandemic also will receive immediate assistance, with nearly 2,000 receiving a one-time stipend, based on capacity and current operations.