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Dec. 1—State health officials reported 938 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and three additional deaths as hospitalizations continued climbing into record territory.
The report of more than 900 new cases comes after a decline in new infection reports over the past week caused by a slowdown in testing over the holiday and a five-day gap in the state's processing of positive tests. Testing volume and cases are expected to climb in the days ahead, and holiday gatherings are expected to drive another surge in cases in Maine and nationwide.
Health officials also are closely monitoring the new coronavirus variant, omicron, amid concerns that it may be even more transmissible than the delta variant that's responsible for the current surge in Maine. So far, no cases have been detected in the U.S., but many other countries have confirmed cases of the variant.
Hospitalizations increased again on Wednesday to another pandemic high — 334. Of those, 99 are in critical care and 49 were on ventilators. The number of people currently on ventilators is the highest Maine has seen to date. Over the last month, the number of people in the hospital on any given day has increased by nearly 60 percent.
Since the pandemic began, 3,138 people have been hospitalized with the virus at some point, and 1,327 people have died.
Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah is scheduled to provide an update on the state's pandemic response at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The state's report of new cases on Wednesday increased the seven-day case average to 398, although that number is artificially low because of the long holiday weekend. On Tuesday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,173 new cases for the 5-day period from Thanksgiving through Monday — only about 235 per day — reflecting a trend of fewer tests are conducted and processed over weekends, and even more so on a holiday weekend.
The seven-day average number of new cases in the United States has decreased at the start of this week, according to figures from the U.S. CDC, but that too is largely a function of decreased testing around the holiday. Prior to Thanksgiving, cases had risen by about 40 percent over the last month.
Meanwhile, vaccinations in Maine have been steady, especially booster shots. As of Wednesday, the state has administered 915,341 final doses, which represents 68.1 percent of all residents, and 297,160 boosters, which covers 22 percent of people.
Since children aged 5-11 became eligible for the two-dose Pfizer vaccine about a month ago, 27,416 in that age category have gotten first doses, or 28.4 percent. But as has been the case throughout Maine's vaccination effort, there are wide geographic disparities. Cumberland County, for instance, has seen 48 percent of elementary school age children get first doses, the highest rate of any county. On the other end, half of Maine's 16 counties have yet to reach 20 percent.
This story will be updated