Two people walk out of the Casco Bay ferry terminal on the Portland waterfront on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

State health officials launched an investigation Thursday into a cluster of COVID-19 cases at a Lewiston long-term care facility, even as they closed several high-profile outbreak cases after several weeks with no new coronavirus infections.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention also reported 24 new coronavirus cases statewide, but no additional deaths.

The 11 new cases at Marshwood Center in Lewiston mark the latest COVID-19 outbreak at nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Maine. Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said the facility had been routinely testing all staff but the investigation into the outbreak was still in the early stages.

At the same time, Shah reported that the state had formally closed its investigations into outbreaks at Bath Iron Works, the Falmouth by the Sea senior care community and at the Cape Seafood processing facility in Saco. Maine CDC closes outbreak investigations when a facility or workplace has reported no new positive cases for 28 days after the last “symptom onset date.”

The BIW and Falmouth by the Sea outbreaks both received considerable attention, although for different reasons. BIW’s outbreak involved three employees but was high-profile because of the size of the workforce (more than 6,000 workers) and because the cases coincided with the start of on an ongoing labor union strike at the Navy contractor shipyard.

The outbreak at Falmouth by the Sea, by contrast, involved 75 cases and several deaths dating back to mid-April.

Overall, Maine CDC has tracked a total of 3,737 confirmed or probable cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus since mid-March. The 11 new cases at the Marshwood Center nursing home in Lewiston were not included in the 24 new cases reported by the Maine CDC earlier Thursday because they were disclosed after the cutoff time for daily case numbers and will, instead, be included in Friday’s tally.

But the 24 new confirmed or probable cases is slightly higher than the rolling average of 22 cases daily for the seven-day period ending Thursday.

During a briefing on Thursday, Shah also noted that 0.98 percent of the 2,653 molecular-based tests conducted during the previous 24-hour period came back positive and the seven-day average was 1 percent. That compares to a 1.76 percent positivity rate in Maine one month earlier despite increased testing and a national rate of 9 percent.

“Although these figures are encouraging, they are not an occasion for a victory lap,” Shah said. “The situation that continues to unfold across the western and southern states could still take hold in Maine and for that reason I continue to ask and urge everyone to keep both feet firmly on the gas.”

The 3,737 total confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in the state is an increase of 14 over the tally reported on Wednesday, although the Maine CDC reported a total of 24 confirmed or probable cases on Thursday.

The discrepancy between the new daily case numbers and the total is likely due to epidemiologists reclassifying “probable” cases as negative after follow-up testing or transferring cases to the home state of the individual, which is standard practice in Maine and other states.

The number of deaths among Mainers with COVID-19 held steady at 118. Maine continues to have among the lowest per capita infection and death rates in the country, according to tracking by The New York Times.

After accounting for the 118 deaths and the 3,239 people who have recovered from the disease, Maine CDC was reporting 380 active cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. That is a decrease of nine since Wednesday and is significantly lower than the rolling average of 406 active cases per day for the week ending on Thursday. Maine was averaging 418 active cases daily for the seven-day period ending on July 16.

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