With the current surge of the more contagious strain of COVID-19 hitting Maine and the northeast, the state reported 791 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths on Saturday.
Because many home tests go unreported, the actual case count is higher.
Hospitalization numbers stayed stable Saturday, as the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 214 people hospitalized with the virus. Of those, 27 were in critical care and one person was on a ventilator. On Friday there were 215 hospitalized with the virus.
With infections rising, the nation’s top health officials continue to recommend states like Maine step up efforts to slow the spread by wearing masks indoors, avoiding crowds and testing before indoor gatherings.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said more than 45 percent of the country’s population live where there’s a medium or high COVID-19 transmission risk. In high-risk counties, “people should be masking,” Walensky tweeted Friday. Those who live in counties with medium-risk levels should consider masking based on personal risk, Walensky said.
In Maine, there are mask mandates for health facilities, some local government offices and public school buildings. On Friday, the city of Portland announced it was once again requiring masks at City Hall.
In most public places, mask mandates have not resumed. In area stores and shops, visits show many shoppers are not returning to masking.
On late Thursday the U.S. CDC listed Maine’s most populated county, Cumberland, as high risk for transmission of the virus, along with eight other counties. That’s a big change compared to April, when all of the state was at low-risk of transmission.
In addition to Cumberland, high risk counties are: Oxford, Androscoggin, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Hancock, Penobscot and Aroostook. Medium-risk counties are York, Franklin, Kennebec, Waldo, Piscataquis and Washington. Somerset County is low risk, according to the CDC.
New virus variants are infecting people who have previous immunity, including those who have been vaccinated. The vaccines continue to protect most people against severe illness and hospitalizations, officials say. But, given how quickly the new variants spread, the virus can be deadly to older people, the unvaccinated or those with underlying medical conditions, experts have said.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, Maine has recorded 259,058 cases of COVID-19 and 2,343 deaths.
On Sunday in Gorham there’ll be a memorial service to remember those who have died with COVID-19, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced. The memorial will begin at 2 p.m. at St. Anne’s Church, 299 Main St.
Memorial cards will be available Sunday morning for people to write the name of loved ones to remember. Cards can be dropped into a special basket at the end of masses that begin at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Each of the names will be read during the 2 p.m. service.