The number of people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 dipped slightly Sunday after two record-setting days as Maine continues to face a barrage of disruptions from the highly contagious omicron variant.

Schools dealing with staff shortages are struggling to keep classes open. This weekend, Brunswick High School announced it will be closed Monday and that all classes will be remote Tuesday through Friday, while the Yarmouth School Department put out a request for volunteers to serve as substitute teachers or help out at recess and lunch. On Friday, York schools announced that they will be remote all this week because of staffing shortages.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 387 COVID-19 hospitalizations Sunday, down from Saturday’s record high of 399 patients.

Of those, 107 are in critical care, and 53 are on ventilators, according to the Maine CDC. Those numbers are similar to Friday’s statistics of 106 patients in critical care and 57 on ventilators. Unlike overall hospitalizations, the numbers in critical care have remained steady or declined.

While some schools shift to remote learning, Yarmouth School Superintendent Andrew Dolloff is trying something different. He’s asking for help from his community, looking for qualified individuals to serve as substitutes and volunteers.

With increased COVID-19 infections among Yarmouth staff, the district has been able to continue in-person learning for students only “due to the incredible dedication of staff through the district,” Dolloff wrote in a letter Saturday to the community. “Teachers, administrators and support personnel have consistently stepped in to cover for one another,” he said.

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But Yarmouth schools have maxed those resources, he said, and any more increases of staff absences would force a transition to remote learning for an undetermined period of time. “If you are able, we invite you to apply to be a substitute or volunteer,” Dolloff said in his community letter.

Any new substitute will go through a background check and approval process and must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, Dolloff said. Volunteers are needed to help with lunch, recess and more. Anyone interested in volunteering should email [email protected] as soon as possible, Dolloff said. 

In Brunswick, the high school will switch to remote learning this week. There will be no teaching at all Monday, and remote learning will happen Tuesday through Friday, Superintendent Phillip J. Potenziano said Sunday.

“It is with enormous regret that I have to inform you the COVID-19 post-December break surge has proven too much,” Potenziano said in a written statement. “As a result, we must pause all in-person instruction at Brunswick High School.” The COVID-19 case counts at Brunswick’s three other schools are high, but it’s worst at the high school. The high school health services team has tried “valiantly to support each and every student and staff member, but the situation is untenable.”

No teaching on Monday will give staff a chance to prepare for remote learning for the week, Potenziano said. He hopes in-person learning will resume Jan. 18.

Other schools are also struggling to keep buses running and classes open.

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Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin told lawmakers of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on Thursday that schools across the state are doing their best to keep students in class “in spite of unfathomable challenges that continue to be presented by this ongoing pandemic.”

With about 30 percent of Mainers not fully vaccinated, the need for clinics continues to be great, said Dr. David Redding, a kidney doctor at MaineGeneral in Augusta.

“In Augusta I work in the intensive care unit,” Redding said Saturday. “I am seeing unvaccinated people passing away. I am experiencing the burnout and fatigue of the nursing staff.”

For some people who haven’t been vaccinated, maybe enough time has gone by for them to feel more comfortable getting a shot, Redding said.

That’s why he and his wife hosted a vaccination clinic Saturday at their Portland brewery, Goodfire Brewing Co.

“Let’s do this. Let’s continue to provide opportunities,” Redding said as people formed a line and rolled up sleeves. “It’s our duty to press through the fatigue, that feeling of being defeated, saying ‘no,’ we can still provide opportunity and turn this around.”

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He and his wife are fully vaccinated and boostered. Despite that, she came down with COVID-19 during Christmas. He did not. On Christmas he cooked a roast and delivered it to his wife at the stairs of their basement, where she quarantined.

As the “Booze-ter and Vaccine Clinic” ended on Saturday, 150 people had been vaccinated, Redding said. When the wait time in the line grew to 40 minutes, “my wife jumped in” and administered shots, along with Community Pharmacy clinicians, he said. With three giving shots, “we got the line moving,” Redding said.

Most people there enjoyed a beer and got a booster. Some, like Nicklas Libby of Madison, got their first vaccination.

“I got my first shot because they were doing it here,” he said, approving of the brewery setting. He decided to get vaccinated because he’s in a band.

“The music scene is requiring it,” Libby said. “I figured it was easier to get a vaccine than get tested before each time going out.”

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