Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Maine fell to the lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic this week, with Maine Medical Center reporting the fewest such patients since the first week of the crisis.

As cases, hospitalizations and deaths surge across the southern and southwestern United States, overwhelming intensive care units, Maine hospitals have experienced seven weeks of low COVID-19 inpatient levels, even as Gov. Janet Mills has ratcheted back the strict lockdown measures that blunted the virus’s spread in April and May.

Maine Medical Center in Portland, which has handled nearly half the state’s coronavirus burden through most of the crisis, had an average of just 3.3 COVID-19 inpatients each day for the week ending Thursday, down from peak daily census counts of 35 on April 7 and May 25. That was the lowest level since the week ending March 19, the week Maine registered its first confirmed cases and hospitalizations.

Portland’s other major hospital, Mercy, had almost as many patients, averaging 3.1 per day, up from 1.6 the week before and 2.9 the week before that, but still only about a third of its burden in mid-to-late May.

York County’s largest hospital, Southern Maine Health Care Medical Center in Biddeford, averaged 2.1 patients each day, while York Hospital hasn’t reported a COVID-19 inpatient since June 22.

Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston had an average of 2.7 confirmed COVID-19 inpatients for the week, up slightly from 2.4 the week before, while the city’s other hospital, St. Mary’s has had no such patients since June 30.

MaineGeneral in Augusta – the hospital that has had the third largest pandemic burden to date after Maine Med and SMHC – also had no COVID-19 inpatients for the week.

Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor averaged 2.7 inpatients a day, down slightly from 2.9 the week before, and had 1.1 the week before that. Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick had one patient each day of the week.

Four smaller hospitals that had reported having patients during the month of June – Bridgton, Rumford, and Waldo in Belfast and Franklin Memorial in Farmington – had none for the week.

MaineHealth’s hospitals, including MaineMed, SMHC, Mid Coast and Franklin, introduced a new method of reporting their daily numbers to the Press Herald this week, restoring Sunday census numbers for the first time in more than a month and allowing daily averages to again be calculated.

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 that is a metric that is not affected by how many people are tested.

The Press Herald’s survey is for the week ending July 16. The newspaper compiles data received directly from the hospitals and hospital networks. It includes most of the state’s hospitals and accounts for the vast majority of the statewide hospitalizations reported each week by the Maine CDC.

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