COVID-19 hospitalizations declined again on Monday, and the number of patients is now 25 percent lower than the January peak as the omicron wave continues to subside in Maine.

The pace of positive tests submitted to the state each weekday also continues to fall, and has dropped more than 50 percent over the past three weeks.

The number of Maine’s hospital patients and the number of positive tests remain higher than during previous surges of the pandemic. But the steady declines follow a pattern experienced in others parts of the country and the world where the omicron variant led to a spike in infections followed by a sharp drop.

Hospitalizations decreased from the Jan. 13 peak of 436 to 327 on Monday. Just two weeks ago, there were 427 inpatients statewide.

Critical care utilization also has plummeted, from 133 ICU patients on Dec. 19 to 79 on Monday, a 41 percent decrease. Nationally, COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined 18 percent during the past week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These numbers are better than they have been, but still challenging,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a tweet on Monday.


The drop in hospitalizations led Maine Medical Center to announce Monday that it will ease some of the visitor restrictions it has had since December, when the hospital saw a spike in the number of patients infected with the highly contagious omicron variant.

Maine Medical Center now will allow one visitor per day for non-COVID-19 patients between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Pediatric patients will be permitted to have one parent or guardian visit. Obstetric patients can have one support person plus a doula during labor and delivery.

“Throughout the pandemic, Maine Medical Center has prioritized patient and care team safety while balancing the very important role visitors play in healing when making adjustments to our visitor policy,” Jeff Sanders, president of the Portland hospital, said in a written statement. “Now that the omicron wave is showing signs of receding, we are happy to welcome visitors to our adult inpatient units once again.”

Masking requirements will remain, and the ongoing patient load means the hospital continues to postpone elective medical procedures such as joint replacement surgeries.


Maine Medical Center and other hospitals continue to receive help from Maine Army National Guard members who were deployed to fill non-clinical roles while the omicron wave created staffing shortages and a sharp rise in patient loads.


Meanwhile, the average number of positive tests submitted each weekday to the Maine CDC declined last week for the third week in a row. The average number of positive tests from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 was 1,404. That’s down from 2,194 the previous week.

The daily average of positive tests peaked at 3,186 during the week of Jan. 10-14, with a record 3,759 positive tests submitted to the state on Jan. 12.

Not all positive tests sent to the Maine CDC end up being confirmed cases, in part because some individuals get retested after being infected. But Maine is dealing with a backlog of more than 58,000 positive tests that have yet to be processed, leading to delays in confirmed tests that are added to the official count. That makes the daily case count numbers released by the Maine CDC an unreliable metric and the rate of positive tests a better way to measure current pandemic conditions.

The decline in positive tests in Maine matches up with case trends in other states. Nationally, the rate of confirmed new cases has dropped 50 percent in the past two weeks.

On the vaccination front, 73 percent of Maine’s 1.3 million residents are fully vaccinated, and 42 percent have gotten their booster dose.

Maine continues to have one of the nation’s highest rates of fully vaccinated residents. Nationwide, 64 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. CDC. However, the national percentage of people who have received booster shots is the same as in Maine: 42 percent, according to the U.S. CDC.


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