Hospitalizations from COVID-19 declined slightly in Maine on Sunday, but they remain at a sustained high level even as they have come down significantly across the country.
As of Sunday, there were 201 individuals in the hospital with the virus, down from 207 a daily earlier. Of those, 71 were in critical care and 27 were on ventilators, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The overwhelmingly majority of people hospitalized have been unvaccinated or have been fully vaccinated but older and with other serious health conditions.
Hospitalizations in Maine climbed to their pandemic peak of 235 one month ago, on Sept. 25. The number in critical care reached a high of 88 three days earlier. Things started to improve in early October, and the total dropped to 152 on Oct. 7. Since then, though, the trend has reversed again.
Across the U.S., meanwhile, hospitalizations continue to decline steadily. According to the most recent data from the federal CDC, there were 49,033 people hospitalized on average for the week of Oct. 15-21. That’s down 11 percent over the previous week and down nearly 50 percent from early September at the height of the delta variant surge.
Many people are still dying from COVID-19 as well. Just in the last month, there have been at least 113 deaths in Maine, according to CDC data, and 1,122 people have died since the pandemic began. The U.S. is still averaging more than 1,200 deaths each day from COVID-19 and more than 730,000 Americans have lost their lives to the virus overall.
The Maine CDC does not process COVID-19 tests on weekends anymore, so the number of new cases Sunday was not available, but virus transmission continues to be high in Maine.
The state reported 585 new cases on Saturday, along with seven additional deaths. The seven-day daily case average is now 463, which is down slightly from 497 cases on average two weeks but virtually unchanged from the 466 cases per day Maine was seeing this time last month. On Friday, the state crossed the 100,000-case threshold. Only Vermont and Hawaii have yet to reach that mark.
The state’s positivity rate – or the number of all tests that come back positive for COVID-19 – has increased to 5.5 percent on average from 4.4 percent two weeks earlier. Nearby New Hampshire and Vermont also have seen increased virus transmission in recent weeks.
The national seven-day case average, meanwhile, has dropped more than 40 percent, from roughly 120,000 per day a month ago to 70,000 cases now, although the volume of testing has dropped substantially in many states, especially those in the south. For example, Maine is processing roughly three times more tests per capita than Alabama and Georgia and five times more than Mississippi.
Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah has said that even though the state’s overall vaccination rate is high, there are still large pockets of unvaccinated people in many parts of the state and that has generally been where the virus is spreading most.
Cumberland County, for instance, has an overall rate of 77 percent, which is highest, while five other Maine counties have yet to reach 60 percent – Somerset, Piscataquis, Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin.
As of Sunday, Maine had administered 904,375 final doses of vaccine, which accounts for 67.3 percent of all residents and 76.4 percent of those 12 and older who are eligible. Children between the ages of 5-11 could be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine soon after the U.S. CDC’s advisory committee meets on Nov. 2-3 to review data and make a recommendation.
Maine also is likely to see an increase in vaccinations this week, as boosters for both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have now been approved. So far, 74,521 additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been given to older Mainers and individuals who are immunocompromised.
Finally, the state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers will be enforced beginning Friday. Any health care worker who has not been fully vaccinated could be terminated. Many health care organizations, including hospitals, nursing homes and more, have faced staffing shortages even before the mandate goes into effect.