Last week, I was sad to see Maine reach a grim milestone in the year and a half battle against the pandemic: 1,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

While this number can seem low when compared to the nearly 700,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States and the 4.5 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide, this is a big number for a small state like ours. I mourn the loss of family, friends and community members here at home — each of whom represents a very real and significant absence in our lives. Especially with the holiday season coming up, which is usually a time for celebration and reunion, I know that we’ll painfully notice who’s not sitting around the table with us.

Susan Deschambault Courtesy photo

While over 1.7 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Maine, which breaks down to 73.5 percent of eligible Mainers having been fully vaccinated, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases is above 500 for the first time since January. Moreover, as of Sept. 28, 225 Mainers are hospitalized, including 70 in the ICU and 33 on ventilators, which leaves 57 ICU beds available statewide.

What I take away from these sobering statistics is this:

We need to stay vigilant against the virus, and do our part to protect ourselves and each other.

We must continue to socially distance, wear face masks indoors, and get the COVID-19 vaccine — which is free, safe and effective. I am fully vaccinated against the virus, and I wore my face mask when I returned to the Senate Chamber at the State House in Augusta this week. I’m proud to trust the science, lead by example, and do my part to protect those around me.

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I urge everyone to consider taking actions that will protect each other, especially immunocompromised people and children who cannot yet be vaccinated.

Another tool to protect ourselves during this pandemic is the Pfizer booster shot, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control authorized on Sept. 24. I bring this up because I have been getting a lot of questions about the booster.

To be eligible, you must have received your second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months ago. If that’s true for you, then there are a few other categories that make you eligible to receive a booster shot now: if you are 65 or older; if you are 18 to 64 and have an underlying medical condition; if you live in a long-term care facility (and are 18 or older); or if you are 18 to 64 and have increased risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of your work environment.

If you meet this criteria, then you can schedule your booster shot at your local Walgreens Pharmacy. While unvaccinated people are still the most at-risk, the Delta variant of the virus means that we need to take a serious look at the booster shot — and evaluate our eligibility for getting it. In fact, most of the new COVID-19 cases have been caused by the Delta variant, and this strain of the virus has resulted in breakthrough cases for even the fully vaccinated.

Although the breakthrough cases can happen, they remain rare — and the symptoms are much milder and the likelihood of being hospitalized is lower for fully vaccinated individuals. I also want to note that researchers are studying effective booster shots for people who received the Johnson & Johnson or Moderna vaccines.

As always, for all medical concerns and treatments, talk with your trusted health care provider to determine what works best for you and your family.

It’s an honor to represent you in Augusta. If you have any questions about the bills we passed this year, or need help with government programs and services, please reach out to me.

Sen. Susan Deschambault represents Senate District 32, which is includes Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport, and Lyman. She can be reached via email at [email protected] or call 207-287-1515.

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