Maine reported an additional 191 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths Wednesday, the same day federal officials announced plans to offer vaccine boosters to all individuals beginning next month.

The state’s seven-day daily case average increased to 172, up from 100 two weeks ago and from 36 cases this time last month. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have more than doubled in two weeks and are at their highest point since June 1.

Robert Long, a spokesman for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the state will be ready to carry out the Biden administration’s guidance to offer vaccine boosters to vaccinated residents beginning Sept. 20.

“As we await authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Maine CDC will continue to work with our vaccination partners to ensure that booster shots are accessible throughout the state as groups of Maine people become eligible for them,” he said in a statement. “Research released today affirms that vaccination is safe and remains highly effective at reducing risk of hospitalization and death with COVID-19. We urge any Mainer age 12 and older who has not been vaccinated to get a shot as soon as possible and we thank the 70% of Maine people who have now received at least one dose of these life-saving vaccines.”

Dr. James Jarvis, COVID-19 incident commander for Northern Light Health, said he’s still waiting for additional guidance from federal officials, but also that his organization would be ready to do its part.

Last week, the Biden administration said those with compromised immune systems could immediately begin receiving a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. On Wednesday, officials said third doses will be offered to everyone else at least eight months after the completion of their original two-dose regimen. Those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are not recommended for an additional shot at this time, although that could change.


The push for vaccine boosters comes as the delta variant continues to drive up cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country. States that have been especially hard hit, including southern states where vaccination rates are low, are seeing their highest levels of hospitalizations so far in the pandemic.

In Maine, four counties – Aroostook, Piscataquis, Penobscot and Waldo – are now seeing high transmission, which means at least 100 new cases per 100,000 people over the most recent seven-day period. Ten other counties are seeing substantial transmission, defined as 50 new cases per 100,000. Every county but Androscoggin and Kennebec met the threshold for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that masks be worn in indoor public spaces.

Since the pandemic reached Maine just over 17 months ago, there have been 73,087 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 and 909 deaths, according to data from the Maine CDC.

Hospitalizations, which have been rising steadily since June, increased by eight on Wednesday and now stand at 92, the highest total since June 1. Of those, 46 are in critical care and 19 are on ventilators.

Jarvis said at least 80 percent of those hospitalized with the virus right now in his network are unvaccinated.

“Unfortunately these people are sicker than we saw in the past, and that’s concerning to us,” he said.


Recent genomic testing on a random sample of positive cases in Maine revealed that 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.

The current surge in cases is being driven overwhelmingly by unvaccinated individuals. Since vaccines became available in Maine, there have been 37,993 cases of COVID-19 and just 863 of them have been breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people. That’s just over 2 percent.

Of the 852 people hospitalized since vaccines were available, 35, or about 4 percent, have been fully vaccinated. And of the 237 deaths in that time, 14 have been people who were fully vaccinated, or nearly 6 percent, although each had other health conditions that contributed, according to state health officials.

The latest spike also comes as many Maine schools are set to reopen in less than two weeks. It could prove a challenging endeavor since the vaccination rate for those between the ages of 12-19 is only about 51 percent and students under the age of 12 haven’t been approved for the vaccines.

Some schools have committed to requiring masks, while others have made them optional. Across the state and country, school boards have been met with angry parents over masking policies, and some Republican governors have prohibited school departments from imposing mask mandates, even in states where cases are rising dramatically.

Jarvis said Northern Light supports masks mandates in schools.


“I think most can agree our kids need in-person learning but as safely as possible,” he said. “Children do spread the virus and can get sick enough to be hospitalized.”

Meanwhile, Maine’s overall rate of vaccination has seen a slight increase over the last few weeks as cases have risen. As of Wednesday, 828,743 final doses had been administered, accounting for just under 70 percent of eligible residents age 12 and older and 61.7 percent of all residents.

The number of doses given Monday – 2,311 – was the highest daily total since June 24, although some of those might be third shots for fully vaccinated people who are immunocompromised, such as cancer patients, transplant recipients and those on certain types of medications that suppress the immune system.

Jarvis, at Northern Light, said staff has begun thinking about how they will roll out the additional vaccines for all individuals but said they are waiting for additional guidance from the CDC. He said he doesn’t envision large-scale vaccination sites because the shots will be delivered in a staged approach, and he also said supply will not be limited the way it was over the winter.

The sudden increase in vaccine doses could also be tied to a recent mandate from Gov. Janet Mills that all health care workers be vaccinated by Oct. 1.

Paul Bolin, chief human resources officer for Northern Light, said the health care provider is trying to make it as easy as possible for any of its 12,000 employees who are not yet vaccinated to get their shot. Asked if any have resigned in protest, which some have feared might happen, Bolin said a “small number” have ended their employment, but he did not provide a number. He said many who had threatened to leave have changed their minds.

“I think it’s a very personal decision for many employees who are struggling with that decision,” Bolin said. “We are steadfast in our belief that it’s the right choice.”

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