We continue our bi-weekly update on the situation in Maine. LifeFlight is caring for COVID-19 patients every day now, along with every critical illness or injury that normally requires our service. It is our new normal.
Some good news
In good news, summer arrived with the Memorial Day weekend and Maine is gradually re-awakening from the quiet of the stay-at-home instructions over the last two months.
Governor Mills has developed a phased re-opening plan in conjunction with the Maine CDC and much wider testing capacity. We are in the reset.
Our communities are safe and being outside is good for all of us albeit with the reminder we need to maintain physical distancing and masks when we are with strangers to protect ourselves, our families and each other. Working together we can create a great summer in the midst of all our uncertainties.
We know we can win this epic battle against this novel disease. With huge effort and disruption, Maine ‘flattened the curve.” We have processes and new equipment to safely care for and transport our patients with this highly infectious disease. Our hospitals and care teams were not overrun as was experienced by colleagues in both urban and rural areas across the country. Maine’s hospitals have strong ICU capacity including bio-contained units dedicated to managing COVID-19 patients as well as ventilators. With the ability to safely isolate and manage COVID-19 patients, all our hospitals are re-opening scheduled care, which for many patients has been significantly delayed by the pandemic.
And some challenging news
There are two bits of challenging news. Maine has seen a substantial drop not just in scheduled care, such as a patient awaiting a hip replacement, but much more concerning is that we have seen a substantial drop in emergencies and unscheduled care due to concern and fear about going to the hospitals. In many cases, this has led to poor outcomes when patients delay calling 9-1-1 for chest pain or a stroke, or forgo much needed cancer or diabetic care. Do know, wherever you are in Maine, our EMS agencies, emergency departments and hospitals are safe and ready to respond.
Also challenging in the ongoing reset, Maine’s new infection rate is up. In our last update two weeks ago the estimated “R1” rate—each infected person’s likelihood of infecting another person—was 0.94 with the new infection rate gradually slowing. (Any rate less than 1 is headed in the right direction.) With increased mobility and isolation fatigue our R rate this week is now 1.3 with estimated doubling time of infections down to 28.7 days. Both the R1 and doubling rate are higher than national rates. (COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition https://c19hcc.org) While testing is becoming more available we are still a long way from knowing the full health status of our communities, and with the arrival of summer Maine’s population will more than double.
What you can do
As we anticipate the summer months ahead, welcoming many of our seasonal residents and re-opening our stores, hotels and restaurants, we need to thoughtfully continue to protect our families and communities. Here is what we all can do:
Think about your “bubbles” starting with your family and expanding. Keep your family safe.
If you are arriving from out of state, please follow the guidelines on quarantine. Communities across the state are building resources to help new arrivals integrate safely. Here is one example: www.stgeorgecommunity.org.
Being outside is good for the body and soul and lessens the chance for infection spread but please practice the new etiquette of physical distancing—6’—not social distancing.
Wear masks when you are in public with strangers. It may feel inconvenient, but it is safer for everybody.
Wash your hands.
If you feel sick stay home and call your local physician or emergency department/urgent care if needed.
If you feel very sick call 9-1-1 and go the emergency department if needed. It is safe and may save your life.
Remember we are all in this together.
LifeFlight is there for you when you need us. Thank you for being there for us.
On behalf of the LifeFlight team,
Thomas Judge, Paramedic
Norm Dinerman, MD, FACEP