May 22—The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported 159 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death, the lowest daily increase since March 22 as the state prepares to substantially eliminate its mask mandate.
Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday signed an executive order that lifts the statewide mask mandate starting Monday in most cases. That comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people don't need to wear face coverings indoors. But businesses in Maine may still require masks if they choose, and the U.S. CDC still recommends that unvaccinated people wear masks in public.
Maine's cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to 66,863 on Saturday. Of those, 49,039 have been confirmed by testing and 17,824 are considered probable cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 191.4, where it hasn't been since mid-March.
Eight hundred nineteen people have died with COVID-19 in Maine since the pandemic began, and 119 people are now hospitalized with the disease. The person reported Saturday to have died was a Cumberland County man in his 60s, the Maine CDC said.
Earlier in the month, Mills announced that Maine would no longer require vaccinated people to wear masks indoors, in line with the U.S. CDC's new guidance. But public health officials acknowledged that it would be difficult for businesses to tell who's vaccinated or not when enforcing masking indoors, so the lifting of restrictions announced this past week will apply to almost everyone.
That does not include schools or child care facilities, however, and the CDC is still requiring masks on public transportation such as buses, trains and planes.
Portland is relaxing its precautions for visitors to public buildings, but will still require masks, city officials said Friday. Gone are temperature checks and screening questions for COVID-19.
The city asks visitors to conduct their own self-screenings and to stay home if they aren't feeling well, spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said.
"Our updated guidance is based on keeping our employees safe, while also continuing to provide essential city services and transactions for the public," Grondin said in a statement. "We're asking the public to please be patient and kind as we continue to stay the course, with the understanding that this is an interim step in the right direction. And we ask you to use that same kindness and understanding when visiting other retailers and places of business who have also decided to continue to require some level of safety measures. While we look forward to the time when we can be back to our buildings being fully open, we will only do that when it is entirely safe to do so."
The Maine State House will also reopen to the public starting Monday, on the condition that all visitors wear masks. The Legislative Council voted 6-2 on Thursday to approve the reopening.
By Saturday morning, Maine had given 697,381 people the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 668,303 had received a final dose. Out of the state's population of 1.3 million, 51.88 percent had received a first dose.
Among people 12 and older, the population currently eligible for vaccination, 56.43 percent are now fully vaccinated.
County by county as of Saturday, there had been 8,155 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 1,819 in Aroostook, 17,011 in Cumberland, 1,324 in Franklin, 1,326 in Hancock, 6,364 in Kennebec, 1,110 in Knox, 1,030 in Lincoln, 3,515 in Oxford, 5,993 in Penobscot, 540 in Piscataquis, 1,439 in Sagadahoc, 2,148 in Somerset, 994 in Waldo, 865 in Washington and 13,229 in York.
By age, 18.6 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.3 percent were in their 20s, 15.1 percent were in their 30s, 13.4 percent were in their 40s, 14.6 percent were in their 50s, 10.3 percent were in their 60s, 5.3 percent were in their 70s, and 4.3 percent were 80 or older.
Maine's hospitals on Saturday had 119 patients with COVID-19, of whom 41 were in intensive care and 19 were on ventilators. The state had 87 intensive care unit beds available of a total 383, and 226 available of 319. There were also 453 alternative ventilators.
Around the world late Saturday afternoon, there were 166.2 million known cases of COVID-19 and 3.4 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 33.1 million cases and 589,643 deaths.