Maine reported 356 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday as the state continues to see a rise in infections fueled by the more contagious omicron BA.2 variant of the virus.

Hospitalizations rose slightly to 100 patients statewide Thursday. The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 has so far held steady in Maine and the Northeast despite a rise in infection rates in recent days and weeks.

While hospitalization increases always follow weeks behind any rise in infections, many experts have said high levels of immunity in the United States should prevent another major surge of hospitalizations from the BA.2 variant.

Of the 100 patients hospitalized on Thursday, 19 were in critical care and four were on ventilators. No new deaths were reported Thursday.

The state reported 605 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest one-day total since March 4. The higher numbers on Wednesday and Thursday pushed the seven-day average from about 200 cases a day to 273.

The number of new cases reported by Maine and other states has always understated the actual number of infections because not everyone who gets the virus gets a test. But the daily case reports now represent a more significant undercount because of the increased reliance on at-home tests, which are not included in official reports.


That growing gap between actual infections and reported cases means case counts can’t be directly compared to other points in the pandemic. However, the data is one indicator of how infection rates are changing and where they are rising the fastest.

New cases have begun rising nationwide, with the Northeast recording the most significant spike.

Maine had the seventh highest infection rate in the United States as of Wednesday, with 133 cases per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national infection rate is 62 cases per 100,000 people. Vermont, Washington, D.C., Rhode Island, New York,  Massachusetts, New Jersey had the six highest infection rates.

Maine’s rate of positive tests also has increased over the past several weeks, indicating a higher level of community spread of the virus. Seven percent of test results statewide on Wednesday were positive, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The positive test rate had dropped to 3 percent in March after peaking at more than 20 percent during the omicron wave in January.

Walgreens also tracks the positivity rate for tests performed at its pharmacies. Of the nearly 700 tests performed at Walgreens pharmacies in Maine last week, 22 percent came back positive, up from 14 percent the previous week, according to the company.

Meanwhile, the Mills administration announced Wednesday that Maine schools will stop conducting pooled testing for the virus on May 13, in part because the BA.2 is so contagious that weekly tests are no longer as effective at keeping the virus out of schools. The administration said free at-home test kits, which it is providing to schools, are a better tool to prevent the virus from spreading among students and staff.







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