It was the third consecutive daily report of high cases after a drop over the Thanksgiving long weekend, when fewer tests were processed. The seven-day average of cases now stands at 518 cases, up from an average of 472 cases in the same period last month, but health officials expect it to continue to rise.
There have been 122,242 confirmed or probable cases since the start of the pandemic and 1,332 people have died, according to data tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Even with the surge, both are among the lowest per capita of any state.
As of Friday, the number of COVID-19 patients in Maine stood at 329, the tenth consecutive day of at least 300. Of them, 104 were in intensive care and 52 on ventilators. Two in three hospital patients are not vaccinated, the CDC said, and about 90 percent of people in intensive care have not received their vaccines.
Hospitalizations reached record levels throughout the week, with regional hospitals serving central and western Maine continuing to treat unprecedented numbers of inpatients for the fourth week in a row.
The MaineGeneral in Augusta said he was caring for an average of 35.7 COVID-19 hospital patients per night for the week ending Thursday, up from the previous record set last week of 26.7 per night. night. This week’s level is almost double the peak seen by the 198-bed hospital in any previous increase. Wednesday was the worst day ever there, with 39 COVID hospital patients treated.
“We are fortunate to have been able to maintain inpatient services and have not had to turn away patients yet,” MaineGeneral spokeswoman Joy McKenna said in an email, but said added that if the increase continued, they were ready to take action to adjust services if necessary.
“With the holiday season approaching, we are calling on all people in Maine to take action to stay healthy and, when it comes to COVID, get vaccinated,” she added.
Maine Central Medical Center in Lewiston also set an all-time record for the five days ending Tuesday, with an average of 31.4 COVID hospital patients treated each day, up from 26.6 last week. The 250-bed hospital hit its all-time high in a single day – 35 inpatients – on Friday, November 26.
Small hospitals are also registering record numbers.
Brunswick’s Mid Coast Hospital also set an all-time record with 13.4 inpatients per day for the week ending Thursday, as did Inland Hospital in Waterville with 5.7 per night, up from 4.9 last week. Mid Coast has 93 adult beds in total. The interior has 36.
AR Gould, a small 48-bed intensive care hospital in Presque Isle that treated an average of 11 COVID patients per night for the week ending Thursday, more than double its previous record of 5.3 set last week.
The state’s largest hospitals, Maine Medical Center in Portland (615 beds) and Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor (322 beds) both reported high and increased hospital charges, but both were still below their record levels set during last winter’s wave.
On the immunization front, Maine administered 919,629 final doses of vaccine, representing 68.4 percent of all residents, and 313,836 booster doses, which is good for 23.3 percent. The rate of boosters in Maine is higher than in all other states except Vermont, according to a Bloomberg tracker.
But Maine’s vaccination rate remains low in many areas, meaning there are large pockets of unvaccinated people who are causing transmission. In the past 14 days, the county with the highest vaccination rate – Cumberland – experiences the 2nd lowest virus transmission per capita of any county. The county with the lowest transmission in the past two weeks, Knox County, has the 3rd highest vaccination rate. Conversely, the less vaccinated counties – Androscoggin, Oxford and Piscataquis, in particular – are seeing much higher case rates of late.
Similar to Maine, the United States has seen the number of new cases drop in recent days as testing dries up around the holidays. But, as expected, things are picking up. As of Thursday evening, the seven-day average of cases was 86,412 cases, according to the US CDC, down 8% from the 94,170 average cases two weeks ago.
Authorities are closely monitoring the new variant, Omicron, which has now been confirmed in at least four states and is almost certain to spread to all states. Researchers are still studying how transmissible the new variant is, whether it causes more severe symptoms, and whether current vaccines protect against it.
This story will be updated