The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 415 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Saturday as the delta variant continues to spread aggressively across the state.

The new cases are the most reported in a single day since May 3, indicating that the current surge in infections and hospitalizations is likely far from over in Maine. Although the number of people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 declined from 143 to 132 between Friday and Saturday, hospitalization trends have typically lagged behind cases by about two weeks throughout the pandemic.

There were 69 people in critical care as of Saturday morning – down slightly from Friday’s record-tying figure of 71 patients in intensive care units – and 29 individuals were connected to ventilators. ICUs in Maine are as busy as they have ever been during the pandemic as hospitals deal with both a spike in COVID patients but also other severely ill or injured patients during the busy summer season.

The Maine CDC reported that 45 of the 332 ICU beds in Maine hospitals were available on Saturday. The number of available critical care beds had dipped to 34 on Thursday, which was the lowest level since at least last September.

For example, Northern Light Health reported on Friday that 90 percent of the ICU beds within its network were occupied.

“Our focus is always on accommodating all patient needs and maintaining room for them. However, at this time, it is becoming more difficult to adjust our bed capacity and meet the needs of our state’s population,” said Chris Facchini, a spokesman for the Northern Light Health network, which includes Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and Mercy Hospital in Portland. “We will continue to work with our partners and state officials to monitor this situation regularly.”

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Yet Maine continues to have among the nation’s lowest COVID-19 infection and death rates as well as one of the highest vaccination rates, ranking just behind three New England neighbors in terms of the percent of the population fully inoculated against the disease.

Maine’s cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to 75,381 on Saturday. Of those, 54,470 have been confirmed by testing and 20,911 are considered probable cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 246, and the 14-day average was 204.3. By comparison, the seven-day average was just 24 cases for the week ending on July 1.

Masks were recommended in indoor public settings for all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, in 15 of Maine’s 16 counties on Saturday because of “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission. The only county with a “moderate” level of community transmission on Saturday was Washington County, based on criteria from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nine hundred thirty people have died with COVID-19 in Maine since the pandemic began. Demographic information about the two reported deaths wasn’t available from the Maine CDC on Saturday.

On Thursday, the heads of four large Maine health care organizations implored residents to take precautions such as social distancing and hand washing and, if eligible, to get vaccinated.

“The more COVID-19 patients we take care of in hospitals, the less resources we have to take care of all the other things we need to do,” Dr. Joan Boomsma, chief medical officer at MaineHealth, the parent company of Maine Medical Center in Portland, said during a joint news conference. Hospitals “don’t have many more tricks up our sleeve” to add capacity for COVID-19 patients, Boomsma said.

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By Saturday morning, Maine had given 840,955 people the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Among people 12 and older, the population currently eligible for vaccination, 71 percent are now fully vaccinated.

Maine ranked just behind Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut on Saturday in terms of the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to tracking by Bloomberg. Additionally, Maine had the lowest new infection rate over the past week – 16 cases for every 100,000 residents – among the states and has the third-lowest rate in the nation for the entire pandemic, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

Maine as of Friday had recorded 1,818 “breakthrough” cases – which occur when a fully vaccinated person contracts COVID-19 – as well as 89 hospitalizations among fully vaccinated individuals.

But unvaccinated people still make up the vast majority of new cases – accounting for roughly 95 percent of the more 39,800 new infections and 90 percent of the 917 hospitalizations that have been reported in Maine since the first date when Mainers could be fully vaccinated. Research shows that vaccines provide strong protection against serious illness and death even if a vaccinated person catches COVID-19.

County by county as of Saturday, there had been 8,757 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 2,303 in Aroostook, 18,291 in Cumberland, 1,501 in Franklin, 1,601 in Hancock, 7,049 in Kennebec, 1,316 in Knox, 1,226 in Lincoln, 3,878 in Oxford, 7,408 in Penobscot, 732 in Piscataquis, 1,560 in Sagadahoc, 2,571 in Somerset, 1,476 in Waldo, 1,047 in Washington and 14,664 in York.

By age, 19.2 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.4 percent were in their 20s, 15.2 percent were in their 30s, 13.3 percent were in their 40s, 14.3 percent were in their 50s, 10.1 percent were in their 60s, 5.3 percent were in their 70s, and 4.2 percent were 80 or older.

Around the world on Saturday evening, there were 215.8 million known cases of COVID-19 and nearly 4.5 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 38.7 million cases and 637,174 deaths.


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