A customer walks into a Hannaford store in Portland on Monday, passing a sign telling customers who are fully vaccinated that they no longer need to wear masks inside the store. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer  Buy this Photo

Maine reported fewer than 100 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time in more than three months on the same day the state’s mask mandate ended.

None of the 92 cases reported Monday were in Cumberland County, which is Maine’s most populous county and has the state’s highest rate of vaccination, at nearly 65 percent. The last time Maine logged fewer than 100 cases was on Feb. 15.

Two additional deaths also were reported, both in Kennebec County.

Numbers from over the weekend – such as positive cases reported on Monday that occurred on Sunday – tend to be lower than weekday numbers for a variety of reasons, including because fewer people get tested on the weekend and because labs are less likely to report results on weekends.

Nevertheless, with cases climbing to about 450 on a seven-day average just last month and a pandemic peak of about 600 in mid-January, recent trends show a substantial easing of the pandemic in Maine as higher percentages of the population are vaccinated. As of Monday, half of Maine’s population had received the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Cumberland County actually recorded minus one case Monday, which is possible because some probable cases from previous days are later found to be negative and reclassified. Since the early days of the pandemic, Cumberland County has only reported five days when cases were zero or less: two days last October, one day in September and one day in July.

Cumberland County also has the best vaccination coverage in Maine, with 64.5 percent of its 295,000 residents receiving at least the first dose, compared to the 52 percent statewide and a low of 35 percent in Somerset County.

The seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 165.3 on Monday, compared to 269.3 a week ago and 355.9 a month ago. Since the pandemic began, 67,071 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and 822 have died.

Despite the improving case trend, hospitalizations remain high. There are currently 120 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Maine, including 41 in intensive care and 20 on ventilators.

Cases have been declining nationally as well, with the seven-day average of daily new cases falling below 30,000 for the first time in 11 months, according to the U.S. CDC.

Monday was the first day that the mask mandate was dropped in Maine, with masks becoming optional in indoor public places. The Mills administration repealed the mask mandate, but business owners still have the option of keeping it in place.

Some businesses were already shifting to a mask optional policy on Monday, while others were retaining mask requirements. Masking rules already have been relaxed at the Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets, with fully vaccinated customers told they can forgo masks. Masks were still being encouraged for those who are not vaccinated.

Masks are still required in schools, child care centers and public transportation, such as airports and buses.

As of Monday, Maine had given at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 701,715, or 52.2 percent of the state’s 1.3 million residents. Also 673,858, or 50.13 percent of the state’s population, has received their final dose. Maine continues to lead the nation in vaccination rate, according to a tracker by Bloomberg.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth, which runs numerous vaccination clinics throughout the state, said in a Facebook post on Sunday that about 35 percent of the 12-19 age group has gotten at least their first dose of the COVID-19 shot after federal regulators recently approved the 12-15 age group for the vaccine. MaineHealth is working on school vaccine clinics in the final weeks of the school year.

Mills said she volunteered to give vaccines at Gorham Middle School recently.

“As a pediatrician, I’ve administered many vaccines to adolescents. However, I never remember so many of them thanking me for giving them a shot. The excitement among the students was palpable and audible as they received the first half of their ticket to putting the pandemic behind them and enjoying a fun summer,” Mills wrote.

The state’s vaccination strategy is now moving from mass immunization clinics to a smaller-scale strategy designed to bring vaccines closer to people. At MaineHealth, details for some of the new vaccine clinics in southern Maine have yet to be announced, but are expected to be in places where younger people work and play, said John Porter, a MaineHealth spokesman.

“We are working with local businesses to do clinics at notable restaurants, entertainment venues and other places where we think people will congregate. We are doing this with demographics in mind,” Porter said.

Last week, the Scarborough Downs mass vaccination clinic closed, and the Cross Insurance Center vaccination clinic is slated to close on Thursday. The Portland Expo’s last day is expected to be June 18.

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