New strains of the coronavirus that are driving up case counts around the world now may be the dominant drivers of infections in Maine, according to the most recent data collected by the state.

Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 – two closely related and highly contagious subvariants – accounted for nearly 50 percent of cases tested in late June, according to data posted Wednesday by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Given the rate at which they had spread over the previous three weeks, the strains likely now account for more than half of new infections statewide.

Nationwide, the two subvariants accounted for about 70 percent of new infections as of July 2, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The spread in Maine could help explain why case counts and hospitalizations stopped declining in Maine over the past 10 days. The variants are believed to be contributing to rising infection rates in countries all around the world, the World Health Organization said last week.

Omicron BA.4 and BA.4 appear to be even more contagious than previous omicron subvariants. Health experts do not believe they cause more severe symptoms, although they may be better at infecting people who have had previous immunity, either from a past infection or from vaccinations. Health officials continue to urge people to get vaccination and booster shots to protect against infection and prevent severe symptoms.

Meanwhile, the number of patients hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 dipped slightly Wednesday after rising steadily for the past week.


Maine’s CDC reported a total of 128 hospitalized patients, including 23 in critical care and three on ventilators. That is down from 130 patients overall on Tuesday, but up from 115 a week ago.

The CDC also reported 467 new cases in its first full update in four days. The agency does not process or release case counts on weekends or holidays. And the state added 12 new COVID-related deaths to Maine’s pandemic total. All 12 were identified through a periodic review of vital records.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded  270,798 cases and 2,436 deaths.


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