Five hundred fifty-one (551) new cases of the dreaded COVID-19 have been identified by the MaineCDC according to Dr. Nirav Shah, its Director, at his briefing this afternoon. One hundred eighty-seven people are hospitalized statewide with forty-six in Intensive Care Units and eighteen on ventilators. The testing rate for the past 7-days is at 4.64% – a rate that is ever so slightly declining, although it remains well below the national average.
Dr. Shah said that there continue to be numerous investigations conducted by the state agency. An outbreak is defined as three or more cases reported in one facility. John Norton, President of Cozy Harbor Seafood, St. John Street, Portland confirmed this afternoon there have been five cases among the food processing workforce. Eighty-three employees were tested on Monday and Mr. Norton is awaiting those test results. A South Portland Company performed the tests. Mr. Norton said that, as an essential business, he is following the Federal CDC Guidance – all available on the company’s web page. The Cumberland County Jail and Eye Care of Maine were mentioned by Dr. Shah as facilities with outbreaks of the coronavirus that are under investigation. The latter company is located in Waterville.
Dr. Shah took time during the briefing to respond to questions to help keep the public informed and protect it from misinformation. He reported that following the initial injection, people may experience slight short term side effects. But they are temporary he emphasized. “Vaccines do not use a form of covid so no one can get it from the vaccine,” he said to ease any reluctance to take the shot when it becomes available to the general public – a time that is expected to be many months off for anyone not on a priority list. Anyone who has already had the virus, should also receive the vaccine. That’s because it is unknown which gives an individual a stronger immunity for the virus. Dr. Shah said that the second shot needs to come from the same manufacturer as the first shot. “You can’t switch,” he said. Recipients of the first shot will be provided the name of the manufacturer and other information in writing.
As of early this afternoon, 475 Maine people had been vaccinated and they were continuing as Dr. Shah’s briefing continued he reported. In the first week of distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, 975 doses have been shipped to six locations in Maine that have ultra-cold facilities that is required for this vaccine. Maine Medical Center, Portland, is one of those locations. In response to press questions, Dr. Shah said that the need for “field hospitals” have not been met yet, despite the high number of hospitalizations.
In closing, Dr. Shah said that he is looking for new ways to answer questions from the public, rather than allow people to “harbor doubts.”
The next MaineCDC briefing hosted by Dr. Nirav Shah is scheduled for Friday, December 18th at 2:00 pm. It may be viewed on Maine Public Television and is subject to last minute schedule changes.