Maine closed out another week of rising COVID-19 transmission, continuing a staggering trend that comes just six weeks after the state recorded its lowest rate of positive tests.

The state reported Friday that the positive test rate had risen to 4.1 percent, averaged over seven days. That’s below the peak in January – when it spent several weeks above 6 percent – and far below the national rate of 9.5 percent. But the new figure shows just how much the virus has circulated here in a short time. On July 7, the rate was the lowest recorded during the pandemic in Maine, just 0.45 percent.

Because daily cases can fluctuate depending on when tests are processed, positivity rate is sometimes a more precise reflection of how prevalent the virus is in a community.

The state is also conducting 17 percent more tests this week than last week, 331 per 100,000 people, according the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

State health officials also reported 185 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and one additional death. The death was a woman in her 50s from Penobscot County. Twelve deaths also were reported on Thursday, although all but one occurred earlier this year and were discovered during a review of death certificates.

The seven-day daily case average now sits at 160, an increase from 110 cases on average two weeks ago and from 49 this time last month. Cases bottomed out in early July before the delta variant started to work its way through Maine.


Since the pandemic began, there have been 73,454 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, 2,232 hospitalizations and 922 deaths.

Despite Maine’s overall increase and higher case counts in recent weeks, it has the lowest virus prevalence in the nation at present, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Maine’s seven-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 population was 12.3 on Friday. Vermont, which has had the lowest levels of the virus throughout much of the pandemic, reported 17.9 cases per 100,000. States with high levels of infection, such as Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, have rates more than eight times higher than Maine’s, with each state reporting more than 100 cases per 100,000 population.

Nevertheless, Maine’s recent trends are concerning. Thirteen of the state’s 16 counties now meet the threshold of high or substantial transmission where masks are recommended indoors regardless of vaccination status. Only Androscoggin, Kennebec and Sagadahoc counties are below that threshold – at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services closed its Sanford offices on Friday after an employee tested positive. The office is scheduled to reopen Monday. Anyone who had contact with that employee will be notified and recommended for testing.

A DHHS spokeswoman said she could not say whether the employee was vaccinated or not, citing confidentiality, but there is no mandate for state workers to be vaccinated at this time. Those who are not vaccinated must still wear masks indoors, however.


Hospitalizations decreased slightly Friday to 88 individuals, including 43 in critical care and 17 on ventilators. The total is well below the peak in January but twice what it was two weeks ago. The majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated, a trend that has been true across the country.

Cases have been soaring across the country for weeks. The seven-day daily average rose to more than 130,000 this week, the highest it’s been since early February. Less than two months ago, daily cases averaged about 12,000.

Hospitalizations and deaths have been rising as well, especially in states with low vaccination rates. The average number of daily deaths now stands at 640, which is well below the peak in January but still the highest since late April. Hospitals in some states, such as Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, have no available beds.


Meanwhile, vaccinations have picked up slightly over the last couple weeks, both in Maine and across the country. On Thursday, more than 1 million doses were administered in the U.S., the first time that’s happened in more than a month. The average number of shots administered in Maine this week was 2,079 per day, up 21.6 percent from last week. Wednesday’s total of 2,616 was the highest in nearly two months.

Overall, 831,537 Maine people have received their second doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That accounts for 61.9 percent of all residents and 70.2 percent of those 12 and older who are eligible.

As has been the case for months, vaccination rates lag among younger individuals and in more rural counties. Cumberland County has the highest vaccination rate, at 73 percent, while Somerset County’s rate is just 49 percent. Among residents 50 and older, 82 percent are fully vaccinated, but among those between 12-49, the rate drops to 58 percent.

Some of the increase in vaccinations could be tied to third shots of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for immunocompromised people, which have been authorized for distribution. Some also could be tied to previously unvaccinated health care workers who are now mandated to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.

Since Gov. Mills announced last week that all health care workers would need to be vaccinated, there has been pushback. Some has been political and some driven by anti-vaccine activists, but some also has been spurred by employers who have fears about losing workers during an already tenuous time.

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