New cases and hospital patient counts keep declining in Maine

·4 min read

Jun. 4—Maine closed out the workweek with another day of fewer than 100 new COVID-19 cases, an encouraging sign as summer fast approaches.

The 71 cases reported Friday marked the sixth time in the last seven days that new cases have been below 100. One new death also was reported.

The seven-day daily case average now stands at 73, which is down from 194 two weeks ago and 297 cases on average this time last month, according to data tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The testing positivity rate also has declined to 1.68 percent, another sign of reduced transmission.

Additionally, Maine has now crossed the 60 percent threshold for eligible residents, those 12 and older, who are fully vaccinated.

There have been 68,057 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Maine since the pandemic hit, and 838 people have died with the virus. Both are among the lowest per capita in the country.

In addition to Friday's death, 10 were reported Thursday, including an individual under 20, a first for Maine, although that person had other possible medical issues, the Maine CDC said. Not all of the deaths occurred in the previous 24-hour period but were the result of a periodic review of death certificates to determine whether COVID-19 could have been a factor.

Hospitalizations continue to decrease steadily as well. As of Friday, there were 72 individuals in the hospital with COVID-19, including 28 in critical care and 16 on ventilators. In the last two weeks, the number of hospitalizations has decreased by 65 percent, mirroring national trends. The number of people in critical care in Maine is exactly half what it was one month ago.

Gov. Janet Mills on Friday made no changes to the state's color-coded advisory system for public schools. All counties are categorized as green, which means schools can open for full, in-person learning with safety measures including masking. With the end of the school year approaching, the administration said the advisory would be updated this summer on an as-needed basis.

As for vaccinations, the pace has slowed. Maine still ranks second among all states, behind Vermont, in vaccination rate, but the number of doses has fallen for seven consecutive weeks as the most eager and willing already have gotten their shots.

Daily vaccinations have dropped off across the country as well. The seven-day average of newly administered doses has fallen below 1 million for the first time since January, according to data from the U.S. CDC.

Although the daily case average in the U.S. has fallen below 15,000 for the first time since the early days of the pandemic, federal health officials said states with lower vaccination rates, especially those in the south, could be ripe for new outbreaks.

"We have pockets of this country that have lower rates of vaccination," U.S. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN on Thursday. "I worry that this virus is an opportunist and that where we have low rates of vaccination are where we may see it again. And so really the issue now is to make sure we get to those communities as well."

In Maine, Somerset County, which has the lowest vaccination rate of the state's 16 counties, has seen a recent increase in new cases.

Overall, Maine has administered 721,270 first doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, representing 60.9 percent of the eligible population, and 711,630 final doses, accounting for 60.1 percent of those 12 and over who are eligible. The state also has given 75,285 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The rate for residents 50 or older is 77.1 percent, while just 43.3 percent of those 12-49 have been fully vaccinated.

Efforts to entice younger individuals and close that gap have intensified in recent weeks. State officials and health care providers have been offering incentives and bringing vaccine clinics to places where young people might gather.

MaineHealth spent Wednesday and Thursday at Becky's Diner, offering vaccinations to anyone who wanted them. Those who did also got a $15 gift certificate to the diner.

Next week, a mobile vaccination clinic run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will spend four days at Rising Tide Brewery in Portland, and then another four days at Old Orchard Beach.

Also next week, the Portland Sea Dogs — in a partnership with Northern Light Mercy Hospital — will offer the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine from 5-7 p.m. during their game at Hadlock Field on Thursday. Anyone who gets a shot will receive a voucher for a hot dog, water and a Sea Dog biscuit, along with a free ticket to a future game.