Maine reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases and patients in intensive care on Friday as the state’s top health official warned that the fall surge has not yet peaked.

In addition, Maine schools reported a significant spike in the numbers of outbreaks and cases following the Thanksgiving break.

And Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Friday that the record-breaking rise in cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant is expected to intensify.

“All the epidemiological weather vanes point to sustained, high-levels of transmission continuing across the Northeast, to say nothing of omicron, whose impact is not yet known. Translation: it’s bad and getting worse,” Shah said.

The omicron variant has now been detected in 25 states, but no cases have yet been confirmed in Maine.

Maine reported a record 2,148 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, by far the largest number reported on any day during the pandemic. There were eight additional deaths.

Advertisement

Many of the new infections reported Friday are cases that were submitted to the state days ago but were not immediately processed because of a flood of positive tests that public health officials are reviewing. About 450 of the cases reported Friday were within the previous 24 hours, while the remainder were from the previous several days, Shah said on social media.

“The high one-day tally is the result of a major push by Maine CDC epidemiologists to plow through positive lab reports,” Shah said in a tweet.

The second largest number of new cases – 1,460 – was reported Thursday.

School outbreaks also increased, according to data released by the Maine Department of Education on Thursday, with 6,246 cases in schools during the past 30 days and 267 outbreaks, up from 5,602 cases and 193 outbreaks a week ago. Among the largest outbreaks were 85 cases at Fort Kent Elementary School, 64 cases at Lewiston High School and 63 cases at Brewer Community School.

The seven-day average of new cases stood at 962 on Friday, another pandemic high, compared to 643 a week ago and 555 a month ago. Aroostook County had the highest number of cases among Maine counties on Friday, with 276. Aroostook had more cases reported Friday than Cumberland County’s 236, despite having less than a quarter of Cumberland County’s population.

Cases are rising nationwide as weather cools, people move indoors and gather for holidays, although Maine and other New England states are leading the surge.

Advertisement

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine has the fifth highest rate of COVID-19 infections in the nation in the past seven days – 501 cases per 100,000 residents. The national average is 248 infections for 100,000 people. New Hampshire leads the nation with 671 cases per 100,000 population, and Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island also are in the top 10.

Cases in Maine are being driven by pockets of unvaccinated people who are spreading the virus and filling the state’s hospitals. To help Maine Medical Center in Portland, the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Thursday agreed to send a surge response team of 14 out-of-state clinicians who will arrive as soon as this weekend and stay through Dec. 23. A separate request for federal assistance for Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston is pending.

Gov. Janet Mills also activated the Maine Army National Guard, with up to 75 members of the Guard helping statewide in non-clinical roles, such as at monoclonal antibody clinics and at nursing homes. Mills said on Wednesday that this will help alleviate bottlenecks and free up health care workers to focus on COVID-19 patients. Hospitals across the state also have announced delays in elective surgeries – such as knee and hip replacements – to maintain capacity for COVID-19 patients.

CRITICAL CARE RECORD

On Friday, 375 people in Maine were hospitalized for COVID-19, including a record 122 in critical care and 60 on ventilators.

Maine has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, with 935,056 people getting their final shot, or 69.6 percent of the state’s 1.3 million residents. But there are wide disparities among the counties, with the highest-vaccinated county, Cumberland, logging a vaccination rate of 79.7 percent, while four rural counties – Oxford, Piscataquis, Franklin and Somerset – are reporting vaccination rates of less than 60 percent.

Advertisement

Maine is vaccinating children 5-11 third-fastest in the nation and about twice as fast as the national average. Maine has given at least one dose to 32 percent of its elementary-aged children since eligibility expanded to that age group in early November, behind only Vermont and Massachusetts, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. The national average is 16.8 percent.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has reported 128,982 cases of COVID-19 and 1,365 deaths.

Pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics are opening in various parts of the state to try to further increase vaccinations, including first and second doses, boosters and pediatric immunizations.

A pedestrian walks up Congress Street in Portland at dusk last month. Maine’s CDC director described current pandemic conditions as among the worst since the pandemic hit Maine in March 2020. He also said the surge has not yet peaked. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

On Saturday, Mechanics’ Hall in Portland is hosting  a walk-in vaccination clinic with Local Roots Healthcare from noon to 3 p.m. If you have a vaccination card, please bring it to the site.

Next week, Northern Light Home Care and Hospice will be running a walk-in “Booster Blitz” at the Pier 1 in South Portland from 1-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Also, COVID-19 vaccines and boosters for anyone 5 and older will be available from 1-7 p.m. on Dec. 21-23.

Also Friday, the University of New England – which has campuses in Biddeford and Portland – announced that it would require booster shots for in-person students and staff in 2022. A deadline for the new requirement has not yet been established. Bowdoin College in Brunswick and St. Joseph’s College in Standish also are requiring boosters.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login 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.