The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 299 cases of the novel coronavirus and no additional deaths as the state races against a rising wave of infections to administer a newly approved vaccine.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said in a tweet Saturday that Maine expected to receive its first doses of a Pfizer vaccine on Monday or Tuesday. But the vaccine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Friday, will bring a only “gradual slowing” of the virus, he warned. Mainers will still need to take precautions, especially as the state hits ever higher numbers.

Maine’s cumulative cases rose to 15,923 on Sunday, an increase of about 2,600 in just one week that brought the state’s seven-day average of new daily cases to another high of 368.6. Of those cumulative cases, 13,946 have been confirmed by testing and 1,977 are considered probable cases of COVID-19.

Two hundred fifty-seven people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine, and 10,491 have recovered from the disease. Maine had 5,175 active cases on Sunday, an increase of more than 2,000 compared to last Sunday and the first time Maine has surpassed 5,000 active cases.

With doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected to arrive early in the week, Maine could be immunizing a select group of residents within days. But the choice of whom to vaccinate first presents an ethical quandary for health officials charged with distributing the shots.

Maine’s vaccine plan calls for health care workers and long-term care residents to be vaccinated first, but administrators of hospitals and nursing homes ultimately will have to choose who within those facilities will receive shots first. Officials will have to weigh who is at highest risk, taking into account factors such as age, underlying conditions, the kind of work the person does, and perhaps race, if officials choose to prioritize underserved populations.


Shah, the Maine CDC director, says he has asked hospitals and long-term care facilities to prioritize people who are at highest risk of contracting COVID-19. Along the same lines, MaineHealth, which employs 22,000 people across the state, says it will focus first on workers in intensive care units, emergency departments and COVID-19 care units.

Meanwhile, enrollment in Maine’s public schools dropped by more than 4 percent this year amid anxiety about coronavirus transmission. Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut have seen public-school enrollment change by roughly the same percentage.

Parents have increasingly chosen to send their children to private schools or to home-school them; the number of home-schoolers in Maine has already increased by more than 40 percent. There are now more than 10,100 home-school students, compared to 6,880 in the 2019-20 school year.

Since enrollment affects funding for school districts, the drop has some superintendents worried about the financial futures of their districts.

County by county in Maine since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 1,920 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 278 in Aroostook, 4,913 in Cumberland, 336 in Franklin, 387 in Hancock, 1,209 in Kennebec, 270 in Knox, 189 in Lincoln, 618 in Oxford, 1,268 in Penobscot, 72 in Piscataquis, 202 in Sagadahoc, 569 in Somerset, 281 in Waldo, 214 in Washington, and 3,191 in York.

By age, 15.2 percent of patients were under 20, while 17.4 percent were in their 20s, 13.8 percent were in their 30s, 12.5 percent were in their 40s, 14.6 percent were in their 50s, 11.7 percent were in their 60s, 7.8 percent were in their 70s, and 6.9 percent were 80 or older.

Women still make up a slight majority of cases, which has grown slightly in recent weeks to approach 52 percent.

Updated hospital capacity information wasn’t available Sunday night. Of the 175 patients with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals on Saturday, 46 were in intensive care and 15 were on ventilators. The state had 92 intensive care unit beds available of a total 381, and 236 ventilators available of 315. There were also 444 alternative ventilators.

Around the world on Sunday night, there were 72.1 million known cases of COVID-19 and 1.6 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 16.2 million cases and 298,923 deaths.

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