For all of you in Maine the weather this summer has been beautiful, notwithstanding Isaias which hit western Maine pretty hard. Our annual Islesboro Crossing fundraiser has gone virtual this year, with participants swimming and paddling across Maine starting on August 1 and leading up to the finale on August 16.
For more information on how you can support the effort check out www.islesborocrossing.org. A fun addition to the virtual event is the live daily update, done via Zoom and broadcast on Facebook each day at 11am. Take a listen and you’ll get a good feel for the event and the many participants who have embraced the fundraising challenge this year. Crossings are happening all across Maine and the country. Check out our cool interactive map to see them all and find an individual or a team to support.
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, overall Maine is steady. We continue to describe the current situation as “stable but fragile” with some potential significant challenges. The overall risk level is MEDIUM as measured by case trend decline, the R0 viral infection reproduction rate, diagnostic testing, and death rate decline. New cases, new deaths, and hospitalizations are flat. The R0 reproduction rate of 0.99 is up from our last update. A rate greater than 1.0 shows growing infections, with a target of less than 0.8.The testing positivity rate is less than 3% which is goal.
We certainly hope we can keep Maine going in the right direction.
On more positive notes LifeFlight, as always, is pushing ahead on innovation. Two projects are at the forefront:
Outreach education—in responding to current need but anticipating the future we are building learning labs at all of our sites (Bangor, Lewiston and Sanford). This will allow focused small group training with a lead instructor at any site. While we need this at present to limit the number of participants in the classrooms at each site, we also see a lot of application for being able to expand our clinical education programs in the future with improved access and efficiency.
The ‘Next Gen’ aviation project which is comprised of multiple initiatives including a national demonstration project with the FAA for the first-ever precision helicopter routes in the country. We will test fly the first route, Bangor to Bar Harbor, in the late fall with a publish date early in 2021. There are over 50 people from the FAA working on this project which requires new procedures, rules, and technology.
LifeFlight is also getting closer to replacing our helicopters with the newest generation helicopters able to fly the precision routes. While fundraising is ongoing we are hoping to take delivery of the first of the replacement aircraft in September. More on these initiatives in our next Dispatches newsletter.
A bit more worrisome is that LifeFlight continues to care for increasing numbers of critically ill patients with respiratory failure, sepsis, and multi-organ failure. We are also seeing increased rates of interpersonal violence, as well as cardio-pulmonary failure tied to overdoses. As the patients we see are critically ill and there is no certainty of COVID-19 status, we must treat every patient as if they are positive.
While the situation is overall stable there are a lot of challenges. The Maine CDC and our healthcare systems continue to build out testing capacity, but patience is needed. For the closest testing center by zipcode see: https://get-tested-covid19.org/. Unfortunately, as noted above and due to the intensity of processing tests nationally, easily available and open testing is still not possible in most communities. Hopefully we will continue to make progress.
Other challenges include the significant potential of unknown infection from out of state visitors who have been unable to receive timely test results; the continued challenges with enough testing media; fatigue from the protective strategies of masks and social distancing; increased social mobility; and reopening our schools.
As we noted, “stable but fragile” well describes the current situation.
The biggest challenge for us all is personal. Fatigue from the new normal is endemic. Masks in the heat, maintaining social distance, keeping our family ‘bubbles’ small, and limiting travel are all weighing on us, especially in the midst of a glorious and hot summer. What we can do is focus on working together to keep ourselves, our families, our colleagues, and everyone around us safe and healthy.
Remember to protect your family and keep your bubbles small, as difficult as it is.
Remember social distancing, especially when you are in groups of people and especially inside.
Remember outside is good. Remember to follow the ‘Keep Maine Healthy’ guidelines.
Remember we are all in this together. LifeFlight is there for you when needed.
Thank you for being there for us.
On behalf of the LifeFlight team,
Thomas Judge, Paramedic Executive Director
Norm Dinerman, MD, FACEP Medical Director