Maine reported 371 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, largely driven by people in their 30s and younger, while cases among older residents who are mostly vaccinated have declined.

The state also reported two additional deaths.

In response to higher case numbers in some areas, the Maine Department of Education placed Androscoggin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties in the “yellow” category of school reopening advisories, while all other counties remained “green.”

The two deaths reported Friday were women from Kennebec and York counties, one of them in her 20s, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The other woman was in her 50s.

Of the 771 total deaths in Maine during the pandemic, three have been people in their 30s or younger, while 720, or 93 percent, have been among residents age 60 or older.

Hospitalizations also continued to increase. There were 123 people hospitalized in Maine with COVID-19 on Friday, including 50 in critical care and 22 on a ventilator. Hospitalizations have surged in recent weeks, especially in Androscoggin County.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has logged 59,239 positive cases of COVID-19, and 771 deaths. Of the 371 new cases reported Friday, 95 were among people younger than age 20, 52 were in their 20s and 66 were in their 30s. Fifty-eight percent of the new cases were among people in their 30s or younger, while 13 percent – 50 cases – were in their 60s or older. Twenty-nine percent – 108 cases – were among those in their 40s and 50s.

The education department’s yellow designation means the state recommends schools go to hybrid instruction for at least two weeks, with students in classrooms part of the week and learning remotely for the rest. Some schools began offering more in-person instruction this spring, going from two to four or five days per week, and others plan to do so soon. High school sports are expected to continue even in counties under the yellow designation.

The seven-day average of daily new cases in Maine stood at 395.4 on Friday, down from 459.4 a week ago but up from 197.6 a month ago.

Beth Sanborn, 41, of Portland, checks her phone as she walks on Congress Street this month. She said that even though she has been fully vaccinated, she still wears a mask in public. “We are supposed to, so I do,” Sanborn said. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

While case numbers remain relatively high, Maine will get an increase of vaccine doses for the state vaccination program next week, thanks largely to a boost in Moderna supply. Maine will receive a total of 52,660 doses, 21,060 from Pfizer and 31,600 from Moderna. The total represents an increase of 16,200 from the 36,660 received this week.

Those numbers don’t include allotments to Maine for the federal retail pharmacy program and doses sent directly to community health clinics. The pharmacy and community clinic numbers are typically released over the weekend, but if allotments are similar to recent weeks Maine will receive about 15,000 doses in all for those two programs, which means the state would have about 68,000 doses to administer next week.

In addition, federal regulators again approved use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 11 days after it was halted over concerns about blood clots found in a small number of women who received it. The state is urging providers to begin using the vaccine again as soon as possible.

Although demand is still strong overall in Maine, it has declined in some areas, making it easier to get appointments. The country could soon be reaching a “tipping point” where supply won’t be a problem; persuading hesitant residents to roll up their sleeves will be the biggest challenge, public health officials say.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research center, estimates that nationally, that tipping point could be reached within the next two to three weeks. Some states, such as Louisiana, Mississippi and Kansas, are already seeing lagging demand.

“Even though some states have seen demand fall off a cliff, we have not seen that in Maine,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, during a media briefing Thursday.

Maine’s vaccination program reported Friday that 595,291 Maine people, or 44.29 percent of the state’s 1.3 million population, had received at least the first dose of the vaccine, and that 462,411, 34.4 percent, are fully vaccinated. Maine leads the nation in the percentage of people who are fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News Vaccine Tracker, and is tied with Massachusetts for third in the percentage of residents that have received at least the first dose.

New Hampshire tops the nation for the percentage of residents who have received at least one dose, followed by Connecticut. Vermont was fifth and Rhode Island ninth, which means the New England states are leading the country in terms of how quickly they are delivering shots.

Some Maine counties are well above the state average for vaccinations, with Cumberland County reporting that 53.3 percent of residents had received at least the first dose, and Lincoln County reporting 51.75 percent had done so. Meanwhile, in Androscoggin County, where cases have been soaring, only 37.28 percent had received at least the first dose. Androscoggin County has experienced a decline in cases during the past two days, with 61 new cases Friday.

In another potentially encouraging sign, Maine’s percentage of positive COVID-19 tests has declined from 3.5 percent on April 15 – calculated on a seven-day average – to 2.74 percent Friday. A lower positivity rate means most cases of the disease are being discovered, giving public health measures a better chance to work by isolating those who are ill and preventing the spread of the disease. A lower positivity rate combined with high vaccination rates should eventually result in a downward trend in cases.

 

 

 

 

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