Maine reported 151 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, breaking a single-day record set just the day before. Two more Mainers have died of the disease.

To try to stay ahead of surging case counts, the Maine Center For Disease Control and Prevention is hiring more contact tracers and case investigators – people who work to discover how outbreaks start and to quarantine and isolate people who may be contagious.

Maine has seen a surge in cases in late October and early this month, breaking records on Friday, Tuesday and now on Wednesday. There are 1,245 active cases of COVID-19 in Maine.

The seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 98.6 on Wednesday, compared to 67.9 a week ago and 32.9 a month ago. Cumberland County reported 61 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while Kennebec County had 22, Somerset County had 16 and York County had 14.

Dr. Nirav Shah, the Maine CDC director, said the agency has slightly more than 100 contact tracers, but plans to redeploy agency employees from other duties to add another 20. Some will start in their new roles as soon as Monday. Also, the agency plans to hire and train at least a dozen more contact tracers, depending on how case counts go.

“In light of the increase in cases, we are taking strong and quick steps to increase that workforce,” Shah said. “We are continuing to turn up that dial.”


But if the daily average of new COVID-19 cases keeps climbing past 150 to 200 or more, it will be difficult to contact trace everyone, Shah said.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat this, that would be tough, that would be a challenge,” Shah said.

Meanwhile, there are now 104 cases stemming from the outbreak at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

The outbreak included 95 inmates and nine staff members. Universal testing at the Maine Correctional Center showed the disease was contained to two housing units at the Windham facility. The state said it will now house all those inmates in one unit. Shah said the CDC is still investigating how the outbreak may have started.

The prison outbreak is one of the state’s largest, and the second to occur at a correctional facility. The York County Jail in August reported 87 cases that were tied to a Millinocket-area wedding and reception on Aug. 7 that became a super-spreading event. A jail employee attended the wedding.

New outbreaks were reported Wednesday at Hope Baptist Church in Manchester, with five cases; six cases among staff at Calais Regional Hospital; three at CrossFit gym in Augusta and three at Advanced Health physical therapy in Augusta.


Also on Wednesday, the Maine CDC building in Augusta was closed to the public after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Since the pandemic began, 7,077 people in Maine have fallen ill with COVID-19, and 150 have died. The deaths reported Wednesday were a woman in her 80s from Franklin County and a man in his 70s from Waldo County. The Waldo County death was indirectly connected to the Brooks Pentecostal Church outbreak in October that has been linked to 60 infections.

“COVID-19 remains serious and grows more serious with each passing day,” Shah said.

Shah said in a series of tweets Tuesday that virus trends are going in the wrong direction, including hospitalizations, wider geographic distribution of cases and a higher positivity rate.

The seven-day average positivity rate has more than doubled, from 0.5 percent two weeks ago to 1.3 percent on Tuesday, the latest data available. The positivity rate is the percent of COVID-19 tests that have been returned positive. A lower percentage is better because it gives public health workers a better chance to limit the spread of the virus by isolating those who are contagious and quarantining close contacts. The national average is about 7 percent.

Thirty-six people are currently hospitalized in Maine with COVID-19, 10 in intensive care. That’s up from two weeks ago, when there were typically eight-10 hospitalized per day.

In schools, there are 145 cases of COVID-19 at 87 schools as of Tuesday, according to the Maine Department of Education. Most schools did not have an outbreak, and there are currently five schools with open outbreaks of three or more cases.

Yarmouth High will go to remote learning for the remainder of the week, Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff said Wednesday in a letter to parents, after 42 students and adults were found to be in close contact with a person who has a presumptive case of COVID-19.

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