Maine has the highest COVID-19 infection rate among all states after reporting more than 1,000 new cases for a second straight day on Wednesday.

The state has reported 372 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, nearly three times higher than the national average of 130 cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine is followed closely by Rhode Island, Vermont and New York.

Infections have spiked over the past few weeks in Maine and other Northeast states as new and more contagious versions of the virus spread across the region. The omicron BA.2 subvariant and two closely related subvariants – BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 – now account for 80 percent of the new infections in Maine, according to data released by the state.

Each of the new strains of the virus is more contagious than the previous versions, although omicron and its subvariants are less likely to cause hospitalizations and deaths than earlier strains. That fact and the high levels of immunity from vaccinations or previous infections are why public health officials are not expecting a surge in hospitalizations like the one that strained the health system in January.

“The fact that we had a very severe surge in January and some of the nation’s highest vaccination rates provides an immunity wall,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth and a former Maine CDC director. “That doesn’t mean people won’t catch the virus, but they’re more likely to have a less severe case.”

Mills said that although hospitalizations are increasing, they are not increasing as much as they were in January and of those who are hospitalized, very few are in critical care, again compared to the January wave.


Still, Mills says she is taking precautions to avoid contracting and spreading COVID – staying up to date with vaccination, masking, trying to gather outside rather than inside and testing.


Mills said MaineHealth suspects that 1 in 25 people in Maine has COVID. MaineHealth tests 400 to 500 people a day who come into its clinics for non-COVID related reasons and over the last two weeks about 4 percent of those people have tested positive, she said.

It’s hard to say how long the spike will last, Mills said, because new and more contagious variants could appear and drag out the surge.

South Africa is seeing a COVID wave linked to two new omicron variants, BA.4 and BA.5, both of which have already been detected in Europe.

Average case counts have more than tripled in the past three weeks in Maine, while hospitalizations have increased about 60 percent.


The state reported 1,030 new cases of COVID on Wednesday, raising the seven-day average to 710 new cases per day. The daily average was 200 two weeks ago.

The number of hospitalized patients increased to 169, up from 162 on Tuesday. Of those in hospitals Wednesday morning, 30 were in critical care and three were on respirators.

Five more Maine residents have died with the disease, the Maine CDC reported Wednesday.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 248,099 cases and 2,296 deaths.

Daily case reports only represent a portion of new infections because more people are now relying on at-home tests that are not captured in official counts. But the reports still can be used to track where the virus is spreading faster or slower.

Mills expects the surge hitting Maine to spread across the country, as BA.2, BA.2.12 and Ba.2.12.1 continue to overtake previous variants.



The latest wastewater testing has shown the virus increasing in the Portland region, York, County, Augusta and Bangor. Recent tests have shown declining or stable levels of the virus in Brunswick and Lewiston. Aroostook County is considered to be most at risk of straining hospital capacity based in part on the rate of infections there, according to federal data.

Public health officials continue to urge all Maine residents to get vaccinated or get booster shots if they are eligible.

About 67 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 since vaccines became readily available last year have been unvaccinated. While vaccines continue to protect against serious illness in most cases, that percentage has decreased because the number of people who lack immunity from either vaccination or a previous infection has declined.

On Monday, MaineHealth reported that 44 of its 57 current COVID-19 hospital patients are vaccinated. MaineHealth is the parent organization of Maine Medical Center in Portland and seven other Maine hospitals.

Public health officials say the higher percentage of vaccinated COVID patients being hospitalized doesn’t mean the vaccines are any less effective. It merely reflects that the number of unvaccinated Maine residents who haven’t been infected is now a smaller percentage of the state population than it was last spring and summer.


About 75 percent of Maine residents are now fully vaccinated, and 90 percent of people age 60 and older, the population group most likely to need hospitalization.

Vaccinated patients who require hospitalization tend to be older adults with weakened immune systems related to other conditions.

Staff Writer Lana Cohen contributed to this report.




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