Maine health officials reported 799 new cases of COVID-19 over a two-day period on Saturday and 10 more deaths.

New cases were not updated Friday because Thursday was a federal and state holiday.

The seven-day daily case average has gradually increased in recent weeks to more than 500 new cases. Maine’s infection rate has been above the national average for weeks as the virus spreads mostly in parts of the state with low vaccination rates.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 111,145 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Maine and 1,230 infected people have died, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

While hospitalizations have trended downward nationally, Maine reached a record high number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday – 248 – surpassing the previous high of 235 set on Sept. 25. As of Friday, 72 COVID patients were in critical care and 31 were on ventilators.

Hospitalizations dropped slightly Saturday, though they still exceeded the previous record. On Saturday, 240 people were hospitalized, including 69 in critical care and 36 on ventilators.

The majority of COVID patients in Maine hospitals are unvaccinated.

The pace of vaccinations has picked up in recent weeks. And more school clinics are expected to begin vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds this week.

Overall, Maine has given 951,609 final doses of vaccine, or 70.8 percent of all residents. Children age 5 to 11 have received 8,742 first doses and 64 final doses since the Pfizer vaccines were made available to them last week. That’s more than double the number of vaccines administered as of Wednesday, when 3,189 first doses had been given.

In addition to final doses, Maine has administered 160,070 booster doses.

Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine’s CDC director, said Wednesday that the virus is spreading primarily among unvaccinated people in rural areas, where residents were largely spared from earlier waves of the pandemic. He said unvaccinated people account for 86 percent of all COVID-19 cases since vaccines became widely available last spring, while 99 percent of vaccinated people have not contracted the disease.

Cooler, drier weather also may be contributing to the current surge by aiding transmission of the virus and forcing people to spend more time indoors, where the virus spreads more easily, Shah said this week.

And the surge comes only weeks before the holiday season officially kicks, a period that led to a surge last winter, even though average daily cases were lower and other safety precautions, such as universal masking, were more widespread.

Dr. James Jarvis, COVID-19 incident commander for Northern Light Health, the parent entity of Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and Mercy Hospital in Portland, said Wednesday that hospitalizations remain a concern, with hospitals caring for many COVID-19 patients from rural Maine.

Jarvis said “if we let our guard down” by not vaccinating and refusing to take public health precautions, such as wearing masks indoors, “we are in for a difficult winter.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: