Maine reported 58 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, continuing a trend of rising case numbers that is raising alarm among the state’s public health leaders.

The seven-day average of daily new cases climbed to 45.1, compared to 35 late last week and 29.1 a month ago, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cumberland County logged 13 new cases and York and Penobscot counties both reported seven. Waldo and Androscoggin counties each had three new cases.

Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, referenced the rising case numbers in a radio appearance Monday, saying they may indicate that the state is being affected by the overall national increase in COVID-19.

Shah also said that any gathering where people are packed together and not wearing masks is concerning. That’s what occurred Sunday at the Treworgy Family Orchards in Levant, where President Trump campaigned before a crowd that the Maine Republican Party estimated at 3,000 people.

“Anytime you have folks in close proximity without wearing face coverings poses a risk from an epidemiological perspective,” Shah said on the “Maine Calling” radio show on Maine Public. He said the Trump rally may not lead to an outbreak, as the underlying low rates of COVID-19 may make outbreaks less likely. Also, the event was outdoors, which public health experts consider safer than indoor activities.

A pedestrian makes her way down Congress Street on Monday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Maine’s overall position is still better than that of most other states, but case and positivity rates are worsening, Shah said. The state’s seven-day average positivity rate has increased from about 0.5 percent in recent weeks to 0.67 percent Monday. The positivity rate measures the percentage of coronavirus tests that are returned positive, and the seven-day U.S. average is about 5 percent. The lower the rate the better, because when positivity rates are low, public health workers are finding most cases and can halt transmission by isolating those who are contagious.

“It (positivity) has started ticking upward over the past week, the past two weeks,” Shah said. “The surge of cases we’ve started to see in other parts of the country, it may be slowly working its way here.”

Shah said in a series of tweets Monday that more cases are being reported without being tied to a particular outbreak.

“Cases are occurring in all corners of the state, particularly in places that previously had few cases,” Shah said in a tweet. “This is a shift toward community transmission and away from growth driven by focal outbreaks. No part of Maine is spared by COVID-19. It can happen to any of us, no matter where we are and with whom we congregate.”

However, Shah said, Maine’s overall low rates mean the state still has a chance to restrain COVID-19 in the coming weeks. Despite increasing numbers, on Monday Maine had the lowest seven-day average of daily new cases in the country, at 2.4 cases per 100,000, followed by Vermont at 2.7, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute. Meanwhile, hot spots like North Dakota and South Dakota had rates of 105 cases per 100,000 and 89.3 cases per 100,000. Twenty-one states had rates of 25 cases per 100,000 or higher, more than 10 times higher than what Maine is experiencing.

Nationwide, cases are soaring. There have been more than 8.9 million cases and 230,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

In Maine, there were no additional deaths reported Monday. Since the pandemic began, 6,254 Mainers have fallen ill with COVID-19, and 146 have died.

Current hospitalizations rose slightly, to 13 in the hospital Monday, five of them in intensive care.

An outbreak connected to Brooks Pentecostal Church in Waldo County has been linked to 60 COVID-19 cases through Monday. The growth in case numbers in the county spurred the Maine Department of Education to change the county’s school risk level from “green” to “yellow,” which has led to a halt in high school sports and extra-curricular activities.

The University of New England in Biddeford has also reported a recent outbreak. Three students tested positive last week after attending an off-campus event, and all have either returned home or moved into isolation.

And South Portland High School last weekend reported that an individual associated with the school has tested positive for COVID-19, the first case in the district. Those who were in close contact with the individual are required to quarantine and testing is recommended. The high school was not closed.

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