The number of Maine hospital patients with COVID-19 held steady Tuesday as the state reported 451 new cases over a three-day period.

Maine health officials also reported five additional deaths.

Because Maine does not report case counts over the weekend, Tuesday’s report reflects cases from Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 236,709 cases of COVID-19, and 2,207 deaths. Seven-day daily averages have hovered around 200 cases per day for the past few weeks, compared to about 850 in early March.

There were 104 hospitalized COVID patients in Maine on Tuesday, the same as Monday, when the number rose to more than 100 for the first time since March 18. There were 93 hospitalized patients Sunday. On Tuesday, 30 patients were in intensive care and four were on ventilators.

Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, warned in a social media post Tuesday that wastewater surveillance testing in Maine was showing an overall increase in virus levels. Wastewater testing for COVID-19 is considered a leading indicator, with changes in virus prevalence later showing up in case counts and hospitalizations.

“It’s too early to tell if these data points are signals or noise. Indeed, with epidemics, it’s often only in retrospect that trends are identified and confirmed,” Shah said in a post Tuesday on Twitter.


According to data on the Maine CDC website, some wastewater plants in Maine are experiencing an increase in virus levels, including Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn, Belfast and Augusta. However, others are seeing flat levels or declining virus counts, including the Portland Water District’s East End and Westbrook plants, East Millinocket and Presque Isle.

Robert Long, Maine CDC spokesman, said the combined results of the most recent wastewater data show a slight increase during the past week.

In the United States, doctors and public health officials are somewhat wary of the BA.2 omicron subvariant, which has become the dominant strain nationally.

However, because vaccinations are working well and prior infections provide some immunity, and because of the increasing availability of the antiviral drug Paxlovid, U.S. experts are not expecting a major surge in hospitalizations. Nationally, cases have stayed flat over the past week while hospital admissions have trended downward by about 13 percent. Those hospitalized with the virus continue to mostly be unvaccinated, doctors have said.

“I’m generally optimistic,” Shah said Tuesday on “Maine Calling,” a Maine Public radio show. “If BA.2 continues to grow we are in a better position in Maine to withstand the increase relative to other states.”

Maine has one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, with 75 percent of the population fully vaccinated and about 45 percent boosted.

BA.2 is about 50 to 80 percent more contagious than the original omicron variant, although scientists say it does not cause more severe illness. While less severe than delta and previous strains, omicron and omicron BA.2 can still be deadly, especially for those who are unvaccinated and have risk factors for severe disease, such as obesity, diabetes and compromised immune systems.

The official Maine CDC report shows that 10.4 percent of samples tested in March were of the BA.2 subvariant, but the report lags real-time data by about two weeks. Walgreens, the retail pharmacy chain, found more than 70 percent of its positive test results in Maine were linked to BA.2.


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