Hospitalizations for COVID-19 remained at very low levels for yet another week across much of Maine, although Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston saw an uptick over the previous period.

CMMC had an average of 2.6 confirmed COVID-19 inpatients for the week ending Thursday, up from 1.1 the week before. On Wednesday the hospital had four such patients, the highest count since May 24. Lewiston’s other hospital, St. Mary’s, had an average of 1.9 inpatients a day, up slightly from 1.7 the week before.

Maine Medical Center, which carried nearly half the state’s coronavirus burden through most of the crisis, saw the number of confirmed COVID-19 inpatients oscillate between six and 10 for the week ending Thursday, down from a peak level of 35 on both April 7 and May 25.

Portland’s other major hospital, Mercy, had an average of 1.7 confirmed COVID-19 inpatients each day, down from two the week before and roughly a quarter of its burden in mid-to-late May. York Hospital in York had an average of 0.6 such patients each day, while Biddeford-based Southern Maine Health Care Medical Center in Biddeford had three and five inpatients each day, just as it had the week before.

MaineGeneral in Augusta – the hospital that has had the fourth-largest pandemic burden to date – averaged 1.9 COVID inpatients each day of the period, down from two the week before.

On Thursday, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor had one such patient each day of the period, but Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick continued a streak of having no such patients that started May 24.

Bridgton Hospital had an average of 0.7 patients a day during the week, while two smaller hospitals that had reported having patients earlier in the month – Waldo in Belfast and Franklin Memorial in Farmington – had none in the week ending Thursday.

A data shortcoming emerged over the past two weeks involving MaineMed, SMHC and other members of MaineHealth after the hospital network announced that starting June 14 it had stopped taking COVID-19 inpatient counts on Sundays. While this has meant the Press Herald’s survey only includes six days of data each week, the hospital network continued to provide Sunday data to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, but from another source.

After the Press Herald inquired about this Friday, John Porter, MaineHealth associate vice president for system communications and public affairs, explained that MaineHealth has been providing the Press Herald with numbers that are collected by hand each day for use by their clinical staff, whereas the state and federal CDC receive counts that flow “directly from our electronic records system,” including on Sundays. The hospital network decided to stop taking the hand tally on Sundays in order to conserve resources, he added.

The Press Herald asked if MaineHealth could in the future share COVID-19 inpatient census counts from the report they submit to the CDC every day of the week, as some other Maine hospitals already do, and Friday evening Porter responded that they would be investigating if this could be done. “Such a report would closely resemble previous reports,” he cautioned, “but due to differences in how and when during the day the data is collected, it would not be a true comparison over time.”

Hospitalizations can end three ways: recovery, death, or transfer to another facility. The data does not include outpatients or inpatients who were suspected of having the virus but never tested.

Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, because it typically takes two or three weeks after exposure for an acutely affected person to become sick enough to be admitted, but it is one metric that is not affected by how many people are tested.

The Press Herald’s survey is for the week ending June 25. It compiles data received directly from the hospitals and hospital networks. It includes most, but not all, of the state’s hospitals, but accounts for the vast majority of the statewide hospitalizations reported each week by the Maine CDC.


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