PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Public health officials in Maine said Monday there are still no cases of the new coronavirus in Piscataquis County, one of the least densely populated countries in the eastern United States.
The virus has appeared in 15 of the state's 16 counties, and two counties in southern Maine are in the midst of community transmission of the virus, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Nirav Shah said. But Piscataquis, which has a population of about 17,000 and only about four residents per square mile, remains free of cases.
The state has enacted a stay-at-home order to try to limit the spread of the disease, and also issued a rule for travelers to the state to self-quarantine. Maine's cases are clustered most heavily in Cumberland and York counties. In total, 10 people have died from COVID-19 and at least 499 people have tested positive for the virus in Maine.
Shah said residents shouldn't develop a false sense of security due to Maine's relative low number of cases compared to other states.
“I hope that there is not anyone out there who is taking a look at our relatively low numbers compared to Boston, New York and others and saying ‘this is not a risk in Maine,’” Shah said.
Piscataquis is in the interior of Maine and is home to Baxter State Park, one of the most beloved natural areas in New England. The most populated town is Dover-Foxcroft, about two hours north of Portland. It's one of the geographically largest counties east of the Mississippi River, but is one of only two counties in the northeastern U.S. that has fewer than five residents per square mile.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
INNS ARE OUT
Bar Harbor's suspension of vacation rentals and other accommodations for nonessential travel begins on Wednesday. The order adopted by the Town Council applies to short-term rentals, vacation rentals and campgrounds. It is set to expire at the end of April.
Kennebunkport officials recommend that owners of temporary units like hotels, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds stop allowing rentals. All short-term rental spots in town must remain vacant through May 1, the Select Board said. Seasonal homeowners who arrive in town during the order must self-quarantine for 14 days.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Monday issued an executive order to delay the requirement for Maine seafood dealers and processors to renew licenses. She said it's a way of aiding “a critically important driver of Maine's economy.”
So many unemployment claims have been made that the state is limiting when people can call in for help. On Monday, people with last names ending in A through H are allowed to call the Maine Department of Labor. People with last names ending in I through Q can call Tuesday, and R through Z on Wednesday. Anyone can call Thursday and Friday.
Associated Press writer David Sharp contributed to this report.