Mar. 21—The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 172 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death, dropping the daily case count again below 200 as the state prepares to vaccinate people 50 and older starting Tuesday.
State officials announced last week that, in addition to people in their 50s, all adults will be eligible for vaccinations starting April 19. But despite the increasing availability of vaccines for COVID-19, data suggest that some people in critical fields such as health care and public safety are refusing doses.
Maine's cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to 48,464 on Sunday. Of those, 37,396 have been confirmed by testing and 11,068 are considered probable cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 205.6.
Seven hundred twenty-nine people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine. The person reported Sunday to have died was a Kennebec County man in his 60s, the Maine CDC said.
Vaccine hesitancy appears to be holding back the rush to achieve herd immunity, with significant percentages of workers in critical fields having refused shots. In Maine's Department of Corrections, just 54 percent of employees have accepted the vaccine; in the Department of Public Safety, which includes state police and dispatchers, it's 61 percent.
Seventy percent of the population is considered the low end of what's needed for herd immunity — the stage where enough people are immune that it becomes difficult for a disease to spread.
The resistance also applies to health care, where, in long-term care facilities, about 90 percent of residents were vaccinated while only about 65 percent of staff accepted shots, according to the Maine Health Care Association. The second number has been rising, however, officials there said.
Some front-line workers have expressed concern about being "guinea pigs" by taking shots that haven't been studied long-term in the way many other vaccines are. Other vaccine-resistant people may be from minority or marginalized populations who lack trust in government.
But opinion polling also suggests that a sizable pocket of resistance stems from politics. CNN, NPR and the Pew Research Center this month released polls showing that Republican men, supporters of former President Donald Trump and evangelical Christians are most likely to refuse to be vaccinated.
As of Sunday, 363,694 Mainers had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 217,693 had received their final dose. Out of Maine's population of 1.3 million, 27.06 percent have received their first dose, according to Maine CDC statistics.
County by county as of Sunday, there had been 5,100 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 1,353 in Aroostook, 13,528 in Cumberland, 960 in Franklin, 992 in Hancock, 4,084 in Kennebec, 764 in Knox, 629 in Lincoln, 2,397 in Oxford, 4,366 in Penobscot, 373 in Piscataquis, 938 in Sagadahoc, 1,317 in Somerset, 674 in Waldo, 755 in Washington and 10,223 in York.
By age, 16 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.1 percent were in their 20s, 14.4 percent were in their 30s, 13.2 percent were in their 40s, 15.2 percent were in their 50s, 11.6 percent were in their 60s, 6.3 percent were in their 70s, and 5.2 percent were 80 or older.
Of the 71 patients with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals on Sunday, 24 were in intensive care and 13 were on ventilators. The state had 110 intensive care unit beds available of a total 381, and 245 ventilators available of 319. There were also 446 alternative ventilators.
Around the world on Sunday evening, there were 123 million known cases of COVID-19 and over 2.7 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 29.8 million cases and 542,337 deaths.