COVID hospitalizations fluctuate in Maine, rise nationwide

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Jul. 13—The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to fluctuate in Maine as patient counts rise nationwide.

There were 115 patients with the virus statewide on Wednesday morning, including 14 in critical care and four on ventilators, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The overall number is down from 120 on Tuesday, although Maine hospitalizations have fluctuated between 110 and 130 for the past three weeks with no sustained increases or decreases.

Nationwide, meanwhile, the number of hospital patients with COVID-19 has been rising steadily and increased 9 percent over the past week.

The state's patient count remains far higher than experienced during the previous two summers when Maine experienced lulls in the pandemic. On July 13, 2020, there were 18 hospitalizations. And on the same date in 2021, there were 28.

Maine's CDC also reported 261 new cases of COVID on Wednesday and one additional death. The state's seven-day average of new infections is 223 cases per day, a 39 percent increase from a week ago. Case counts do not include the people who confirmed infections using at-home tests.

Cases also are rising nationwide, with a daily average increase of 11.5 percent in the past week.

With the virus now spreading faster in southern and western states, Maine continues to have one of the lowest infection rates in the country. Maine recorded 129 new infections per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, compared to 249 cases per 100,000 people nationwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New, more-contagious omicron subvariants — BA.4 and BA.5 — have driven up cases and hospitalizations around the world and are now believed to be causing the majority of new infections in Maine. The latest state data shows the two strains having spread quickly in recent weeks and accounting for nearly 50 percent of new infections as of June 26.

While the omicron subvariants are less likely to cause severe symptoms than earlier versions of the disease, health officials say older people with underlying conditions, as well as younger, unvaccinated people, are still showing up in hospitals and needing care. Health experts continue to urge people to get vaccinations and booster shots if they are eligible.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 272,361 cases and 2,463 deaths.