Hospitalizations from COVID-19 declined slightly Sunday in Maine, but they remain at a sustained high level even as they have come down significantly across the country.

As of Sunday, there were 201 individuals in hospitals statewide with the virus, down from 207 a day earlier. Of those, 71 were in critical care and 27 were on ventilators, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

The overwhelming majority of those hospitalized have been unvaccinated or are fully vaccinated but older and with other serious health conditions, according to health officials.

Hospitalizations in Maine climbed to their pandemic peak of 235 one month ago, on Sept. 25. The number in critical care reached a high of 88 three days earlier. Things started to improve in early October, and the total dropped to 152 on Oct. 7. Since then, though, the trend has reversed again.

Across the U.S., meanwhile, hospitalizations continue to decline steadily. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there were 49,033 people hospitalized on average for the week of Oct. 15-21. That was down 11% from the previous week and nearly 50% from early September at the height of the delta variant surge.

Many people are still dying from COVID-19 as well. Just in the last month, there have been at least 113 deaths in Maine, according to Maine CDC data, and 1,122 people have died since the pandemic began.

The United States is still averaging more than 1,200 deaths each day from COVID-19 and more than 730,000 Americans have lost their lives to the virus overall.

The Maine CDC does not process COVID-19 tests on weekends anymore, so the number of new cases Sunday was not available, but virus transmission continues to be high in Maine.

The state reported 585 new cases on Saturday, along with seven additional deaths. The seven-day daily case average is now 463, which is down slightly from 497 cases on average two weeks ago but virtually unchanged from the 466 cases per day Maine was seeing this time last month.

On Friday, the state crossed the 100,000-case threshold. Only Vermont and Hawaii have yet to reach that mark.

The state’s positivity rate — or the number of all tests that come back positive for COVID-19 — has increased to 5.5% on average from 4.4% two weeks earlier. Nearby New Hampshire and Vermont also have seen increased virus transmission in recent weeks.

The national seven-day case average, meanwhile, has dropped more than 40 percent, from roughly 120,000 per day a month ago to 70,000 cases now, although the volume of testing has dropped substantially in many states, especially those in the South. For example, Maine is processing roughly three times more tests per capita than Alabama and Georgia and five times more than Mississippi.

Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah has said although the state’s overall vaccination rate is high, there are still large pockets of unvaccinated people in many parts of the state, and that has generally been where the virus is spreading most.

Cumberland County, for instance, has an overall rate of 77%, which is highest, while five other Maine counties have yet to reach 60% – Somerset, Piscataquis, Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin.

As of Sunday, Maine had administered 904,411 final doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, which accounts for 67.3% of all residents and 76.4% of those 12 or older who are eligible.

Children between ages of 5 and 11 could be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine soon after the U.S. CDC’s advisory committee meets Nov. 2-3 to review data and make a recommendation.

Maine also is likely to see an increase in vaccinations this week, as boosters for both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have now been approved. So far, 74,521 additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been given to older Mainers and individuals who are immunocompromised.

Maine’s vaccine mandate for health care workers will be enforced beginning Friday. Any health care worker who has not been fully vaccinated could be terminated.

Many health care organizations, including hospitals and nursing homes, faced staffing shortages even before the mandate goes into effect.

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