May 31—Maine health officials reported just 42 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the lowest daily total since last fall, and no additional deaths.
It was the second straight day of fewer than 100 cases and the 11th consecutive day of cases below 175, an increasingly positive sign that steady progress on vaccinations could keep additional virus spread at bay as summer approaches.
There haven't been any additional deaths reported in five days.
Monday's total likely was affected by lower testing volume over the holiday weekend, but nevertheless, the seven-day average now sits at 101, which is the lowest since early November. That's down from 244 cases two weeks ago and down from a spring high of 479 cases on April 17.
Since the pandemic reached Maine in March 2020, there have been 67,780 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 and 825 deaths, according to data tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of people hospitalized in Maine with COVID-19 also has dropped below 100 for the first time in a month and a half. As of Monday, there were 96 individuals in the hospital, including 36 in critical care and 20 on ventilators. Prior to that, there had been at least 100 people in the hospital with COVID-19 in Maine every day since April 17, and in almost all cases, the individual has been unvaccinated, officials have said.
The New York Times reported Saturday that COVID-19-related hospitalizations across the country had fallen below 27,000 — the first time that's happened since the early days of the pandemic. Average daily cases in the U.S. have dropped below 20,000 for the first time in more than a year and daily deaths also are at their lowest levels since late March 2020, according to the U.S. CDC.
As for the vaccinations, the state has administered 716,427 first doses, representing 53.3 percent of all Maine residents and 60.5 percent of those 12 or over who are eligible for vaccines, along with 699,816 final doses, accounting for 52.1 percent of Mainers and 59.1 percent of eligible Mainers.
Maine trails only Vermont in vaccination rate, according to a Bloomberg state-by-state tracker, even though the pace has slowed for seven consecutive weeks and as gaps have emerged in certain geographic areas and with younger adults. Last week, the state failed to go over 10,000 shots on any day, the first time that's happened since January.
Cumberland County, home to the biggest share of Maine's population, has the highest vaccination rate, at 62.5 percent, while five counties remain below 45 percent, with Somerset County at the bottom (41.2 percent). Over the last month or so, the counties with the lowest vaccination rates have had the highest rates of new virus transmission.
Although 76.6 percent of Mainers age 50 or older are fully vaccinated, that drops to 41.8 percent for individuals between 12 and 49, the group most responsible a majority of new COVID-19 cases.
The state continues to shift its strategy to try and reach young people, especially in more rural areas. Gone are mass vaccination clinics like Scarborough Downs and the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. In their place are smaller, more versatile clinics, including mobile clinics, with later hours and walk-in availability.
MaineHealth, the state's largest health care provider, has partnered with Becky's Diner on a pop-up vaccination clinic this week. Anyone who visits the landmark diner on Portland's Commerical Street from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday can get a vaccine, as well as a $15 gift certificate to Becky's.
MaineHealth hopes to announce additional business partnerships on pop-up clinics in the coming days. State health officials also have encouraged businesses to reach out if they are interested in hosting vaccination clinics at their workplace.