Maine health officials reported 1,107 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and six deaths.

A flood of positive tests in recent weeks has meant that state officials have been unable to process the case counts on a daily basis, and the backlog makes the updates harder to interpret. The state’s official case count also does not include people who use at-home tests that aren’t reported or who do not get tested at all, in part because testing sites are booked up.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 146,736 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 and 1,531 people in Maine have died with the virus, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

The Maine CDC reported Friday morning that there were 334 patients with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals, including 117 in critical care and 60 on ventilators.

While the number of patients is down from a peak of 387 on Dec. 21, it is still high enough to strain hospital staff and resources. And hospitals are bracing for a possible increase in illnesses from the fast-spreading omicron variant, which is driving up patient counts in some other states.

Advertisement

The majority of those in Maine hospitals are unvaccinated.

The Mills administration announced Thursday it is easing some COVID-19 guidelines for schools to help keep children in classrooms even as the fast-spreading omicron variant is expected to cause more infections in the coming weeks.

Among the changes, exposure to an infected person on a school bus or outdoors will no longer be considered a close contact or force a student to stay home from school and quarantine. Students who participate in pooled testing programs at their schools and are exempt from quarantines after classroom exposures will also no longer have to quarantine after exposures at home or in their communities.

The changes are in addition to the announcement Wednesday that the state would follow new federal guidance and shorten the number of days students must remain in isolation or quarantine after an infection or close contact. The isolation and quarantine period is being reduced from 10 days to five, although mask wearing is required in all settings for five days after students are allowed to return to school.

Universal mask wearing is still recommended in schools statewide, according to the Mills administration. However, it is up to local school boards whether to require masks in schools.

“The revisions are intended to help keep students in-classroom while protecting their health and safety and that of staff,” the state’s written announcement said. “The Mills Administration has prioritized in-classroom learning and has provided school administrative units with several options to ensure that students can remain in school, including vaccination, universal masking, and pooled testing.”

Advertisement

The changes come as public schools, colleges and the state’s hospitals brace for a surge in cases here as the fast-spreading omicron variant takes hold in Maine.

Omicron is expected to become the dominant strain in Maine soon, if it isn’t already.

Colleges and universities in Maine and nationwide are revising plans for the spring semester in response to concerns about omicron.

Bates College in Lewiston announced Wednesday that it will start the new semester remotely and restrict activities, in addition to requiring students to get COVID booster shots. Bates students will also have to get their dining hall meals to go and wear face coverings indoors.

Most other Maine colleges are now requiring students to get booster shots. The University of Maine System is reviewing its protocols but so far has recommended, not required, boosters.

Hospitalizations have risen across the country as omicron spreads, although the overall number of hospital patients is not rising as fast as the number of new infections. Experience in other parts of the world indicates that omicron causes less severe symptoms for most people who get the disease. But it still can drive more hospitalizations because of the sheer number who become infected.

Maine’s vaccination rate is about 71 percent, according to the Maine CDC, although the rate varies from 82 percent in Cumberland County to 58 percent in Somerset County.

In addition to final doses, Maine has administered booster doses to about 35 percent of all residents.

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.

filed under: