People walk on Fore Street in Portland on Tuesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Maine reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and one additional death.

Also, 45 more Mainers have recovered from the disease, bringing active cases down from 494 on Wednesday to 474 on Thursday. Overall, there have been 3,486 COVID-19 cases in Maine since the pandemic began, and 111 deaths. A woman in her 80s from Penobscot County was the death reported Thursday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The low case counts are a continuation of positive trends for Maine, while many parts of the country – especially in the South and West – are seeing surges in COVID-19 cases. The United States reported nearly 60,000 new cases on Wednesday, compared to mid-June, when the country was averaging about 25,000 cases daily.

“Unfortunately, the acceleration of new cases nationwide continues apace,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, the Maine CDC director, during a briefing Wednesday with the news media.

Maine has the seventh-lowest number of cases per capita in the country. And Maine is performing well compared to other states in terms of the percentage of tests coming back positive, testing capacity and other key metrics, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center and the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Maine is one of 12 states, including Massachusetts and New York, that is conducting enough testing to have a good chance to keep COVID-19 in check, according to the Harvard institute. Maine is now running 140 tests per 100,000 people and needs to expand to 239 tests per 100,000 to reach “suppression” levels, according to the institute, which means Maine would have a great chance to drive case counts close to zero and keep the clamps down on the virus. Five states – Vermont, Connecticut, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii – are already doing enough testing to suppress the virus.

Maine could reach suppression levels soon, as the Maine CDC is currently undergoing an expansion of testing through a partnership with Westbrook-based Idexx Laboratories. There have been some delays in reaching full testing capacity, but when the state ramps up in the coming weeks, capacity is expected to more than double the current 15,000 tests done per week.

Current hospitalizations in Maine continue to decline, dropping from 22 on Wednesday to 16 on Thursday. The peak so far for current hospitalizations was 60 in late May.

Maine has the fourth-best rate for percent of positive tests in the country over the past week, according to Johns Hopkins. Maine’s percent positivity rate of 1.28 percent over the past seven days trails only Vermont, Connecticut and New York. When a state tests more and a lower percentage comes back positive – especially below 2 percent – that’s an indication the state is finding most cases of the disease and can successfully track close contacts and isolate people who are contagious to halt transmission of the disease.

Shah said on Wednesday that the trends are going in the right direction, but it’s not time to celebrate.

In another effort to try to keep the coronavirus from spreading,  Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday issued an executive order requiring businesses to enforce mask wearing in seven coastal counties, including Cumberland and York counties, and in the state’s more populous cities. 

The order applies to large retail businesses, restaurants, outdoor bars, tasting rooms, and lodging establishments.


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