Maine reported 375 new cases of COVID-19 over a three-day period Tuesday, and lab testing shows the delta variant has taken over as the dominant strain of coronavirus in the state.

In genomic testing conducted on a random sample of positive cases in Maine, the delta variant made up 100 percent of 35 sampled cases so far in August, compared to 86 percent in July. In June, delta accounted for only 3.6 percent of all tested cases. In all, Maine has found 398 cases of the delta variant in samples tested in state and commercial labs this year.

Delta is a much more contagious strain of the coronavirus, and is quickly spreading, mostly through unvaccinated populations.

The 375 cases were the total from Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 177 on Tuesday, up from 147.4 a week ago and 38.9 a month ago. There were three additional deaths.

The case increases in Maine and across the nation come amid reports that the Biden administration is expected to announce this week that booster shots will be available for most people eight months after they received the final dose in their first round of shots. The boosters are expected to be ready to be administered by the end of September, according to national news reports.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 72,896 cases of COVID-19 and 907 deaths. Updated data shows 863 breakthrough cases among vaccinated people, representing 2.2 percent of the more than 37,000 COVID-19 cases since people could be fully vaccinated. Nearly 98 percent of cases are among the unvaccinated. The breakthrough cases are typically milder or asymptomatic in comparison to cases among the unvaccinated.

Penobscot County had the most cases over the three-day period, with 95, followed by York County at 59 and Cumberland County at 36.

Cumberland County – the state’s most populous and most highly-vaccinated county – is experiencing a decline in cases over a seven-day period, from an average of 67.1 cases per 100,000 population to 51.8. York and Androscoggin counties are also seeing declining cases.

Penobscot County is seeing a surge, from 76.1 cases per 100,000 over seven days to 259.5.

In Cumberland County, 72.9 percent of residents are vaccinated, compared to the statewide average of 61.5 percent. Somerset County has the lowest vaccination rate at 49.2 percent.

With the exception of Kennebec County, every county has substantial or high levels of transmission, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under the agency’s recommendations, all people regardless of vaccination status should be wearing masks in public indoor settings, except in Kennebec County.

Despite the uptick in cases in recent weeks, Maine has the second-lowest virus prevalence in the country, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute. Maine’s daily average of 13 cases per 100,000 residents trails only Vermont, at 10.7 cases per 100,000. In areas where the virus is spreading the fastest, Florida and Louisiana, case counts are at 138 per 100,000 and 116 per 100,000, respectively.

Despite the lower numbers in comparison to most of the country, hospitalizations are increasing in Maine, to 84 on Tuesday, with 45 people in critical care.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, pointed out in a tweet Tuesday that there were twice as many people hospitalized in Maine on Tuesday as there were two weeks ago.

The federal government approved boosters for those who are immune compromised last week, and pharmacies are now giving the shots.

Walgreens, CVS and Community Pharmacy, a Maine-based chain, are among the pharmacies offering the shots to those with moderately to severely compromised immune systems. That includes people undergoing cancer treatments, receiving an organ transplant, taking stem cell treatments or who have HIV or other immunodeficiency diseases, according to the U.S CDC.

Immunocompromised people for whom the booster is approved account for about 3 percent of the population. Maine pharmacies are not requiring evidence that a person is immune compromised before dispensing the shots.


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