State health officials reported 848 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and three additional deaths, continuing a sustained surge of the virus as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

The seven-day daily case average increased to 673, which set yet another new record. Two weeks earlier, the daily average was 502 cases, and this time last month, it was 489 cases. Maine’s infection rate has been above the national average for weeks as the virus has been spreading mostly in western, rural counties with lower vaccination rates.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 115,857 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 and 1,271 peopled have died with the virus, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Even with the recent surge, both are among the lowest per capita of any state.

There were 276 individuals with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals on Saturday, including 71 in critical care and 33 on ventilators. The number of people hospitalized in Maine also has been at record high levels in recent days, and the majority of patients remain unvaccinated. A recent study from the U.S. CDC suggested unvaccinated people are 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people.

Throughout the pandemic, 3,032 Maine residents have been in the hospital at some point with the virus.

Transmission had been decreasing nationwide for much of September and October but is now starting to rise again as people move indoors in cooler weather. According to the U.S. CDC, the average number of daily cases is now 94,260, an increase of 32 percent from 71,250 cases on average two weeks earlier. Deaths have yet to increase significantly, but they often lag behind case spikes. Roughly 1,000 people are dying each day, and more than 768,000 Americans have died since March 2020, according to U.S. CDC data.

Over the last seven days, Maine’s case rate is 347 per 100,000 people, which ranks 14th. The national rate is 198 cases per 100,000 people. Nearby Vermont and New Hampshire have case rates that are even higher than Maine’s over the last week.

The pace of vaccinations, meanwhile, has picked up in recent weeks in Maine as more school clinics vaccinate 5-to-11-year-olds and as more residents seek out booster shots. Last week, Gov. Janet Mills announced that all adults could get a booster, provided at least six months have passed since their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or at least two months have passed since they received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Overall, Maine has given 916,709 final doses of vaccine, which accounts for 68.2 percent of all residents. In addition, 240,524 booster doses have been administered.

Although Maine’s rate of vaccination is among the highest of any state, it’s not uniform. In Cumberland County, for instance, 78 percent of all residents are fully vaccinated. On the other end, just 56 percent of residents in Somerset County are immunized.

Increasingly, virus transmission has been most heavy in counties with the lowest vaccination rates. The most recent data from the CDC shows that over the last 28 days, Somerset and Franklin counties have seen the most cases per capita. They are also the counties with the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated residents. Cumberland County, on the other hand, has the lowest rate of transmission over the last 28 days and the highest percentage of vaccinated residents.

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